Yang Ming: Revenue up nearly 50% — end of story

Yang Ming summed up its second quarter and the first half of 2022 in about 150 words.

Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. released a brief financial statement Thursday in which it announced net profit for the first six months of 2022 totaled $4.04 billion. 

Yang Ming does not typically share wordy earnings reports, but Thursday’s news release was even briefer than usual — only one paragraph long, about 150 words and numbers. 

The Taiwanese ocean carrier said Q2 consolidated revenue, converted to U.S. dollars, totaled $3.8 billion. It said that represented a 49.4% improvement from the second quarter of 2022 but did not provide last year’s revenue total.

Yang Ming said Q2 net profit was $1.9 billion but did not disclose how that compared to 2021. It did say consolidated revenue for the first half of 2022 was up 59.5% year over year to $7.5 billion. 

The company said it handled 2.27 million twenty-foot equivalent units in the first six months of the year, a 2% increase from the same period in 2021. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

HMM cautious in short term despite Q2 profit long jump

South Korean ocean carrier HMM expects “downward pressure” on demand growth in the second half of 2022.

HMM reported Wednesday its operating profit shot up by 153% year over year, but the South Korean ocean carrier isn’t counting on revenue figures to be quite as impressive in the second half of 2022.

Seoul-headquartered HMM said the operating profit for the first half of 2022 was KRW 6.08 trillion ($4.68 billion), up from KRW 2.4 trillion ($1.8 billion) in the first six months of 2021. 

First-half revenue leapt by 87% year over year from KRW 5.33 trillion ($4.1 billion) to KRW 9.95 trillion ($7.66 billion). 

HMM provided year-over-year comparisons between the first six months of 2022 and 2021.

Net profit was the most impressive figure of all — up 1,560% from KRW 365 billion ($281 million) in 2021 to KRW 6.06 trillion ($4.65 billion) this year.

HMM significantly improved earnings in H1 2022, mainly led by high freight rates and efficient fleet operations,” the company said in an earnings statement. “The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) in H1 2022 was 4,504 points, up 49% from 3,029 points in H1 2021.” 

Second-quarter earnings also significantly improved year over year. Revenue was up 73% from KRW 2.9 trillion ($2.23 billion) to KRW 5.03 trillion ($3.85 billion). Operating profit increased 111% from KRW 1.38 trillion ($1.06 billion) in Q2 2021 to KRW 2.937 trillion ($2.264 billion) this year. Net profit leapt 1,290% from KRW 211 billion ($162 million) to KRW 2.933 trillion ($2.261 billion).

HMM said it was able to attain record results despite fuel costs rising 35% from the first to the second quarter of this year. 

HMM said its second-quarter net profit skyrocketed by 1,290% year over year. (Chart: HMM)

“The financial structure has remained strong,” it added. “HMM’s debt-to-equity ratio has improved to 46% in June 2022 from 73% in December 2021.” 

HMM provided only three points in the “outlook and plans” section of its earnings release, which hint that results for the second half of 2022 might not be as astounding as those for the first six months of the year.

“Demand growth is expected to be under downward pressure due to considerable uncertainties mainly related to widespread inflation, rising oil prices and [a] recurrent coronavirus situation, in addition to geopolitical tensions,” HMM said. 

It added that the “global supply chain is forecast to remain strained in the coming months” and port congestion at locations around the world is “still pervasive.”

HMM said it unveiled a mid- to long-term strategy in July and “will spearhead an effort to address the full range of future challenges and lay a solid foundation for sustainable growth.” 

HMM will spend more than $11.3 billion as part of the growth strategy that includes expanding its container ship fleet from 820,000 twenty-foot equivalent units to 1.2 million TEUs by 2026. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Gulftainer ‘on course for major growth’

UAE-headquartered port operator Gulftainer says it has turned a “poorly performing past two years into a significantly positive first half of 2022.”

Gulftainer reported Wednesday its bulk cargo volumes in the United States are up 57% year over year.

Gulftainer is a privately owned port management and logistics company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates. It operates U.S. terminals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Port Canaveral, Florida.

Gulftainer cited the Port of Wilmington terminal, as well as one in Khor Fakkan, UAE, as examples of where significant growth had occurred over the past year. 

“Successfully leveraging its multiple ports across the Middle East, the award-winning company has increased its bulk cargo volumes in the UAE by a staggering 290% year on year and by demonstrating its highly productive operational abilities has increased its bulk cargo volumes by 57% in the USA,” Gulftainer said in Wednesday’s report.   

In September 2018, Gulftainer signed a 50-year agreement with the state of Delaware to manage operations at the Port of Wilmington and said it would invest up to $600 million to upgrade and expand the terminal. 

Port Canaveral signed a 35-year deal with Gulftainer to operate its container and multipurpose cargo terminal in June 2014. 

“It’s a fact that very few companies have come out of the last few years unscathed, but amid those trials and tribulations, we identified and relentlessly pursued specific prospects for growth,” Gulftainer CEO Peter Richards said. “We underwent a management restructure, which enabled us to seize the opportunity and rebound the business ahead of schedule. This had the result of turning the poorly performing past two years into a significantly positive first half of 2022. Gulftainer is now back where it should be and on course for major growth.” 

Richards said all Gulftainer port operations have seen increases in productivity and noted the “UAE and the USA throughput levels have increased by 12% since last year in ship-to-shore throughput, far surpassing the internationally recognized industry levels.” 

Earlier this month, GT USA Wilmington handled its first shipment of glycerin transported via breakbulk vessel for Acme-Hardesty Co. The glycerin will be used in the manufacturing of such goods as hand sanitizers, cosmetics and cleaning products. 

Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-headquartered Acme-Hardesty is a large distributor of renewable palm-based glycerin as well as castor oils and derivatives, fatty acids and fatty alcohols.  

GT USA Wilmington said Acme-Hardesty previously received glycerin in containers but transitioned to receiving imports utilizing breakbulk vessels “due to continued challenges caused by the global shortage of containers.” 

The cargo vessel M/V Porthos delivered the first bulk shipment of glycerin from Malaysia to the Port of Wilmington. The cargo was offloaded over the course of two days, according to GT USA Wilmington. 

“We have collaborated with our partners to establish a new stream of freight for Acme-Hardesty imports utilizing breakbulk vessels,” said Matt Howle, director of supply chain for Acme-Hardesty, in a news release. “These open-hull ships provide Acme-Hardesty the ability to bring in large shipments of our most important products without the impact of the global container restraints.” 

Gulftainer said Wednesday it also has launched Project Blue Box, described as “a containerized electric power supply solution designed and built in-house” for its UAE ports. 

It said the power supply solution will support up to 60 refrigerated containers and can help mitigate a terminal’s reliance on diesel-consuming generators during peak periods as well as increase overall terminal capacity and provide space for municipal food inspectors. 

Gulftainer said it will launch Project Blue Box at its U.S. terminals next year. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

FreightWaves Classics: USNS Watson launched 25 years ago

FreightWaves Classics profiles the USNS George Watson, part of the Military Sealift Command fleet.

The USNS George Watson. (Photo: navysite.de)

On July 26, 1997 the U.S. Navy cargo vessel USNS Watson was launched at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company shipyard in San Diego. (The vessel’s prefix USNS stands for “United States Naval Ship” – this designation is used to identify non-commissioned ships owned by the Navy but operated by one of the primarily civilian crews of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, or MSC.)

The USNS George Watson during its construction. (Photo: navysite.de)
The USNS George Watson during its construction. (Photo: navysite.de)

The ship’s keel was laid down on May 23, 1996. As noted above, the ship was launched on July 26, 1997. At her launching ceremony, U.S. Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr., was the principal speaker, and his wife Gail christened the ship using a traditional bottle of champagne. 

The ship was put into service in the Pacific Ocean on June 23, 1998. She is the lead ship of her class of vehicle cargo ships.

Mrs. Gail Berry West, Sponsor of Watson (T-AKR-310) breaks the traditional bottle of champagne across the ship's bow on July 26, 1997 to officially launch the vessel at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, California. In attendance is her husband, Secretary of the Army Togo D. West Jr.; her daughter, Ms. Hilary West, Maid of Honor; and Richard A. Vortmann, NASSCO President. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)
Mrs. Gail Berry West, Sponsor of Watson (T-AKR-310) breaks the traditional bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow on July 26, 1997 to officially launch the vessel at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, California. In attendance is her husband, Secretary of the Army Togo D. West Jr.; her daughter, Ms. Hilary West, Maid of Honor; and Richard A. Vortmann, NASSCO President. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The ship’s use and mission

USNS Watson (T-AKR-310) is one of the MSC’s 19 “large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships.” Including the Watson, there are eight Watson-class vehicle cargo ships used to preposition ground vehicles and she is one of the 33 ships in the MSC’s Prepositioning Program. 

The 950-foot-long USNS Watson and the ships of her class transport a variety of military vehicles, including tanks and helicopters. The ships are part of the fleet of vessels used by the MSC and are positioned strategically around the globe to provide supplies and other support to the U.S. armed services and the Defense Logistics Agency. Each ship in the USNS Watson-class has a beam of 106 feet; they were the largest vessels able to fit through the Panama Canal until its 2016 expansion.

The USNS George Watson underway. (Photo: navysite.de)
The USNS George Watson underway. (Photo: navysite.de)

Military Sealift Command

The MSC is an organization that controls the replenishment and military transport ships of the United States Navy. In addition, the Military Sealift Command is responsible for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all branches of the U.S. military services, as well as for other government agencies. It was created as the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) on July 9, 1949, when it became solely responsible for the Department of Defense’s ocean transport needs. In 1970 MSTS was renamed the Military Sealift Command.

MSC provides on-time logistics, strategic sealift, as well as specialized missions anywhere in the world, in contested or uncontested environments.

The official seal of the Military Sealift Command. Image: msc.navy.mil/images/logos)
The official seal of the Military Sealift Command.
(Image: msc.navy.mil/images/logos)

The Command operates approximately 125 civilian-crewed ships that “replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.” 

MSC ships include a core fleet owned by the U.S. Navy, as well as other ships under long-term charter. These ships are “augmented by short-term or voyage-chartered ships.” Just as in the civilian world, during a time charter, MSC takes control of a merchant ship and operates it for the chartered amount of time. During its charter the ship is crewed by civilian mariners and MSC pays for all expenses. Time-chartered ships are not subject to inspections by foreign governments when in port, and MSC has operational control of the vessels. 

The USNS Watson at Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, on December 26, 2021. (Photo: Michael Jenning/navysite.de)
The USNS Watson at Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, on December 26, 2021. (Photo: Michael Jenning/navysite.de)

Voyage-chartered ships are also crewed by civilian mariners, but MSC only pays a fee for transporting the cargo. Voyage-chartered ships are chartered for a specific voyage, are subject to inspections, and MSC does not have operational control of the ship. 

Ships owned by the Navy carry blue and gold stack colors. As explained above, these ships are in service with the prefix USNS, rather than in commission (with a USS prefix). The ships have hull numbers as an equivalent commissioned ship would have (with the prefix T-) and are primarily civilian-crewed by either civil service mariners (CIVMARs) or contract crews (as are special mission ships). MSC civil service mariners, the largest segment of MSC’s global workforce, are federal civil service employees

In addition, some ships may have Navy or Marine Corps personnel on board to handle  communications and/or special mission functions, or for force protection. Ships on charter or equivalent, retain their commercial colors and bear the standard merchant prefix – MV, SS or GTS, without hull numbers.

USNS Watson moored at Wharf Alpha at, Naval Weapons Station, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, on October 7, 2014. USNS Watson is part of MSC’s Prepositioning Program. Afloat prepositioning strategically places military equipment and supplies aboard ships located in key ocean areas to ensure rapid availability during a major theater war, a humanitarian operation or other contingency. (Photo: Eric Sesit/US Air Force)
USNS Watson moored at Naval Weapons Station, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, on October 7, 2014. USNS Watson is part of MSC’s Prepositioning Program. Afloat prepositioning strategically places military equipment and supplies aboard ships located in key ocean areas to ensure rapid availability during a major theater war, a humanitarian operation or other contingency.
(Photo: Eric Sesit/US Air Force)

Military Sealift Command is composed of eight programs: “Fleet Oiler (PM1); Special Mission (PM2); Strategic Sealift (PM3); Tow, Salvage, Tender and Hospital Ship (PM4); Sealift (PM5); Combat Logistics Force (PM6); Expeditionary Mobile Base, Amphibious Command Ship and Cable Layer (PM7); and Expeditionary Fast Transport (PM8).”

MSC has multiple reporting lines. It reports to the “Department of Defense’s Transportation Command for defense transportation matters; to the Navy Fleet Forces Command for Navy-only matters; and to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) for procurement policy and oversight matters.”

George Watson. (Photo: navysite.de)
George Watson.
(Photo: navysite.de)

George Watson

Then-U.S. Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton named USNS Watson for George Watson, a U.S. Army private who served in the Pacific theater during World War II. 

Private Watson was born in Laurel, Mississippi, and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. He received a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Colorado State University) in 1942. In September 1942, he was drafted and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment as a bath and laundry specialist (which reflected the limited opportunities that Black soldiers had in the military at the time).

He completed his basic training at Camp Lee, Virginia, and then his unit was shipped out from Newport News, Virginia, aboard the USS Hermitage bound for Brisbane, Australia and the Pacific theater.

At Brisbane, Watson boarded the Dutch steamer Jacob, which was headed to his unit’s final destination of New Guinea. Near Porlock Harbor, New Guinea, on March 8, 1943, the ship suffered two direct hits from a surprise Japanese bomber attack. With the ship listing heavily, the ship’s captain ordered all passengers and crew overboard as the ship began to roll over and capsize.

Many of the men from the ship were floating helplessly in the water, not knowing how to swim or were too injured to help themselves. It was then – and under harrowing circumstances – that 28-year-old Private George Watson “demonstrated the utmost courage under fire.”

Once in the ocean, Watson stayed in the water to help other soldiers reach life rafts. Forsaking his own safety, Watson swam through the deadly scene, selflessly pulling members of his regiment and sailors to the few available life rafts. The suction caused by the sinking ship made his efforts even more difficult. Eventually, Watson became exhausted from constant swimming amidst the chaos and drowned.

For his actions, Private Watson was the first Black soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II.  

The wreckage of the Jacob, March 8, 1943, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
The wreckage of the Jacob, March 8, 1943. (Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Service in World War II by Black Americans

Approximately 1.2 million Blacks served in the U.S. armed services, which were segregated during World War II. None of those who served received the Medal of Honor during or after the war. However, in the late 1990s, the Army conducted a three-year review of the records of 10 Black heroes from World War II. The purpose of the review was to determine if any of the 10 met the standards for the Medal of Honor. Of the 10, the names of seven were submitted to Congress and the President for consideration.

On January 13, 1997, President Bill Clinton bestowed the Medal of Honor on the seven Black veterans of World War II. Only one, 77-year-old Vernon J. Baker, a platoon leader with the 92nd Infantry Division, was still alive to receive his award in person. The others had died during the war or in the time since and were represented by next of kin.

First Lieutenant Vernon Baker's Medal of Honor. Baker was the only living recipient at the January 13, 1997 ceremony. (Photo: National World War II Museum)
First Lieutenant Vernon Baker’s Medal of Honor. Baker was the only living recipient at the January 13, 1997 ceremony.
(Photo: National World War II Museum)

Most of those honored served with combat units – as infantrymen, tankers, forward observers, etc. – with one notable exception. Private George Watson’s assignment in the Quartermaster Corps meant that it was unlikely he would have served under arms if he had survived. He was also the only one of the seven to earn his medal while serving in the Pacific Theater. Watson’s Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor 

President Clinton said, “Over and over and over again,” Private Watson continued saving others, “until he himself was so exhausted, he was pulled down by the tow of the sinking ship.”

Sergeant Major Eugene McKinney, the Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army, accepted Watson’s medal from President Clinton. McKinney said, “When Private George Watson’s ship was attacked by enemy bombers, over and over and over again he helped others to make it to life rafts so that they might live.”

Sergeant Major of the Army Eugene McKinney. 
(Photo:  ausa.org)
Sergeant Major of the Army Eugene McKinney.
(Photo: ausa.org)

Clinton also closed his speech after presenting the decorations with a particularly stirring reminder of the sacrifices of Watson and the others honored: “I think it might be an appropriate way to close to say that when I gave Mr. Watson’s medal to the Sergeant Major of the Army, he looked at it and smiled and he said, ‘This is indicative of the type of soldiers we have today, a group of people in our military, men and women, that really do reflect the vast and rich texture of our Nation.’”

In addition to the medals he was posthumously awarded and the ship that was named for him, Watson is remembered on a memorial at the Manila American Cemetery and by George Watson Memorial Field at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Since Private Watson had no known next of kin, his Medal of Honor is displayed in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, which is located at Fort Lee, Virginia.

The Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to Pvt. George Watson. (Photo: history.navy.mil)
The Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to Pvt. George Watson. (Photo: history.navy.mil)

FreightWaves Classics thanks the National World War II Museum, history.navy.mil, navysite.de, navsource.org and Wikipedia for information and photos that made this article possible. FreightWaves Classics also acknowledges the sacrifices the men and women of the U.S. armed forces make daily to keep our nation safe.

Russian vessels allegedly ‘grain laundering’ near Ukraine

Cargo vessels allegedly are meeting at sea to transport stolen Ukrainian grain to Turkey and Syria.

Russia may be smuggling stolen grain out of Ukraine through ship-to-ship transfers, according to Israeli artificial intelligence and data analytics company Windward.

Windward said in a report released Wednesday that its maritime AI technology identified a “worrisome new phenomenon: alleged Russian grain laundering.” 

The report contains information about five vessels that allegedly engaged in “dark activities” and ship-to-ship operations in the Kerch Strait in June “as part of what appears to be a coordinated effort to launder grain allegedly stolen from Ukraine.”

A vessel goes dark when it temporarily or permanently disables its automatic identification system. Windward called this “one of the most basic deceptive shipping practices used to conceal vessels’ location, operations at sea and illicit activities.”

Dark activities in the Black Sea by bulk carriers flying under Russian or Syrian flags have increased by 160% from July 2020-June 2021 to July 2021-June 2022, according to Windward. And 73% of that increase took place after the Russia-Ukraine war began.

Going dark isn’t the only indication of criminal activity. Others include falsification of documents, changing of names of entities, complex ownership structure, ship-to-ship transfers and irregular voyages, Windward said.

Windward CEO Ami Daniel told FreightWaves it’s not unusual for Russian vessels to turn off transmissions. 

“That’s pretty old news,” Daniel said. “But [what is] very novel — and I have not seen it in any shape or form, I have to say it is extremely rare — is the picture of the three vessels you have doing a ship-to-ship transfer of grain.”

Daniel continued, “I think that this is very out of the ordinary. I think somebody’s going to extreme lengths to hide the origin of this grain by doing ship-to-ship transfers in the Kerch Strait.”

Historically, vessels engaging in dark activities focused largely on crude oil smuggling. But now, vessels seem to be going dark and meeting in the Kerch Strait to transfer potentially stolen grain from Ukraine and make a visible or dark port call in Turkey or Syria to unload their cargo.

(Chart: Windward)

“I have never seen that happening with grain because it’s pretty complicated to transfer grain in the middle of the sea,” Daniel said. Ship-to-ship meetings at sea are more common for oil because they can use a pipe to transfer the oil.

June 10 meeting

On June 10, three cargo vessels and two service vessels were captured in satellite images meeting “for alleged grain smuggling.” One of the vessels had a Belize flag. The other four were sailing under the Russian flag, according to Windward.

(Photo: Windward)

One of the Russian vessels from the June 10 meeting has engaged in 19 dark activities in the past six years, 10 of which happened since the war began, Windward reported. That vessel went dark for a day prior to the meeting.

“I would absolutely 100% expect vessels to turn off transmissions near Ukraine where you can get shot by a missile,” Daniel said, noting that south of the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey, vessels won’t be hit by a mine or missile. And some vessels have been turning off their navigation south of there.

Based on draft levels, it appears the Belize bulk carrier, owned by a Turkish-based company, took cargo from the other two vessels during the June 10 meeting and unloaded it in Metalurji, Turkey, the report said.

“Turkey is connected to a lot of places. I think Turkey is a great way to pull in and have these cargos disappear. They’re part of NATO, but they don’t really have the same traceability mechanisms as Western Europe,” Daniel said.

He said Russia is trying to “monetize on the grain” due to higher grain prices. And once a commodity has been exported, tracing it becomes very difficult. 

Tracing mechanisms and sanctions are mostly focused on wet cargo such as oil, Daniel said. “So the dry bulk sector is way, way less sophisticated than oil in the sanction world.”

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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FreightWaves Classics: SS Great Britain was launched 179 years ago

FreightWaves Classics profiles the historic SS Great Britain.

The restored SS Great Britain. (Photo: eventfull.com)

On a rainy summer morning in 1843 excited crowds flowed into the city of Bristol, which is located in southwestern England. They sought to witness the “floating out” of a revolutionary new ship – the SS Great Britain. It was July 19, 1843, exactly four years to the day since the ship’s construction began. 

The ship

The SS Great Britain was the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. Most large ships of the era were fitted with more conventional paddle wheels. 

Designed by the renowned civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the ship was constructed specifically for the Great Western Steamship Company’s service between Bristol and New York. Brunel originally conceived the ship to be a traditional paddle steamer, but he altered the ship’s design in order to use the new technology of screw propulsion. 

Isambard Kingdom Brunel. 
(Photo: historic-uk.com)
Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
(Photo: historic-uk.com)

The ship’s engines were also converted during construction to generate 1,000 horsepower, in order to power a massive 16-foot iron propeller. When the ship was launched it was the largest ship in the world, at almost 330 feet long – almost 100 feet longer than the second-longest ship at that time. The SS Great Britain weighed 1,930 tons – much heavier than any ships on the world’s oceans at that time. The ship was initially designed for the Great Western Steamship Company’s trans-Atlantic luxury passenger trade. It could carry 252 first- and second-class passengers and a crew of 130. It was the world’s longest passenger ship between 1845 and 1854.

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By combining key innovations, Brunel created a ship that changed history. It is not an overstatement that the SS Great Britain set the standard for modern ship design. It also demonstrated the capabilities and inventiveness of the Victorian era. Almost by himself  “Brunel shaped the future of mass passenger travel and international communications.”

Launching the ship

Prior to the launch of the SS Great Britain, the preceding years had been difficult in Bristol. A “busy trading port since ancient times, the city was in serious commercial decline by 1843.” Many residents hoped that the ship’s construction would help reverse the city’s fortunes. 

The Bristol Mirror published a special supplement to commemorate the launch. The newspaper described how the visit of Prince Albert should be regarded as much a celebration of Bristol as a celebration for the ship. The newspaper described the pride of the city’s residents that Prince Albert would take part in the festivities. It also outlined the efforts they went to in the days ahead of his arrival to spruce up the city. According to the reports, the city streets were decked with flags, banners, ribbons and flowers. On July 19, “when the royal cortege passed through the city, all of its shops were shut and business was entirely suspended. Crowds lined the streets, church bells rang, ships were dressed out in a variety of colors and a cannon was fired.” 

Prince Albert. (Image: royal.uk)
Prince Albert. (Image: royal.uk)

The Royal Train was a special Great Western Railway train driven by Brunel on the newly completed railroad. It arrived at the packed rail station and was greeted by thunderous applause.

Prince Albert was the Prince Consort of the United Kingdom and the husband of Queen Victoria. The prince was accompanied by the Marquis of Exeter; Lord Wharncliffe, President of the Council; Lords Liverpool, Lincoln and others in his retinue. In addition, Charles Russell, Chairman of the Railway Company and C. A. Saunders, the railroad’s secretary, were present. 

The Mayor of Bristol and the Town Clerk addressed the Prince, and then the dignitaries had a private breakfast. Prince Albert then took his seat in one of the royal carriages and began his procession through Bristol. The route was lined with thousands of cheering spectators.

Prince Albert boarded the SS Great Britain and inspected the ship during a tour. The ship was described by contemporaries as ‘revolutionary’ in its design. At about 3:30 p.m., as cannon thundered in all directions, a band struck up ‘Rule Britannia.’ 

Prince Albert hurled a bottle of wine at the vessel and scored a decisive hit. At that point the ship was named to rapturous applause. The Illustrated London News reported, “Amid the shouts of thousands… the Prince broke against the bows a bottle of wine and pronounced as the name by which the ship is after to be known, the words ‘Great Britain.’” 

The ship was slowly towed out of her dock, and with the proceedings over, the Prince returned to the Royal Carriages and was driven to the railway terminal for his return to London.

S.S. Great Britain leaving Bristol, circa 1950. (Painting by Harold Vivien Ing/dominicwinter.co.uk)
S.S. Great Britain leaving Bristol, painted circa 1950. (Painting by Harold Vivien Ing/dominicwinter.co.uk)

The ship’s voyages

In 1845 the SS Great Britain became the first iron steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The voyage took just 14 days. 

While her first few voyages demonstrated her technological abilities, they were not a major financial success, because the ship attracted far fewer passengers than its owners had anticipated. The SS Great Britain’s career in the trans-Atlantic market therefore was short-lived. Following a navigational error, the ship was run aground in Dundrum Bay in Northern Ireland in 1846. 

The ship’s owners were forced out of business after they spent all their funds re-floating the ship. Moreover, her engines were badly damaged when the ship ran aground. This led the ship to be sold for salvage in 1850. Gibbs, Bright & Co. purchased the SS Great Britain to carry emigrants to Australia. The new owners replaced the ship’s original engine with a more efficient one, added a second funnel, replaced the ship’s rudder and propeller, and added an extra upper deck so that the ship could carry up to 750 passengers. 

A painting of the SS Great Britain at sea. (Image: history-for-kids.com
A painting of the SS Great Britain at sea. (Image: history-for-kids.com)

Under Gibbs Bright and Co, the ship prospered. The company took advantage of the increase in emigration caused by the Australian gold rush, and used the ship to transport those seeking a new life in Australia. To save money on the run to Australia, the ship relied more on sail power than her steam engine. 

From 1852 to 1881, the SS Great Britain carried over 16,000 emigrants to Australia on 32 voyages. During that period the ship was known as one of the fastest, most elegant and luxurious emigrant clipper ships – the “Greyhound of the Seas.”

Between 1854 and 1855 the ship was chartered by the British government to carry troops to and from the Crimean War. During the course of the conflict it transported over 44,000 troops.

It then returned to carrying passengers to Australia. It took about 120 days to journey to Australia, which was very competitive for the mid-19th century. Passage on the SS Great Britain virtually guaranteed that a passenger would arrive on time, well ahead of any sail-powered rivals.

The stern of the SS Great Britain. (Photo: bbc.com)
The stern of the SS Great Britain. (Photo: bbc.com)

Conversion to a sailing ship

The SS Great Britain was showing her age in the late 1870s. By 1876 shipbuilding standards had changed; the vessel was no longer insurable for passenger use. Gibbs, Bright & Co. sold the ship; its new owners adapted her after 30 years as a passenger ship into a bulk cargo carrier. They removed the ship’s engines and rigged her as a huge, three-masted windjammer. 

In 1882 she set sail from Penarth, Wales full of coal and bound for San Francisco. Until 1886 she carried different exports (such as coal and wheat) between England and the U.S. West Coast. 

Following storms off Cape Horn (the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile) in 1886 the SS Great Britain was badly damaged. Her captain was forced to seek shelter in the Falkland Islands. Her owners determined that the ship was too damaged to maintain the ability to sail; and repairs would have cost more than the ship was then worth. 

So the SS Great Britain was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and used as a floating storage hulk. The ship served as a warehouse, quarantine ship, and coal storage vessel.

During the First World War, coal from her hold was used to replenish the British battle cruisers Inflexible and Invincible before the decisive battle of the Falkland Islands on December 7, 1914. In that battle, the British fleet sunk Germany’s armored cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and light cruisers Nurnberg and Leipzig.

By 1933 the ship’s hull was no longer watertight. In 1937, after being towed to Sparrow Cove, a short distance from Port Stanley, she was beached, abandoned and left to rust away. 

The abandoned SS Great Britain. (Image: history-for-kids.com)
The abandoned SS Great Britain. (Image: history-for-kids.com)

Rescuing the SS Great Britain

There were attempts to rescue the ship in the late 1930s and again in the 1960s. These attempts failed, but in 1970 a major salvage effort refloated the ship, and she was towed across the Atlantic to Bristol – a distance of 8,000 miles.

Naval architect Ewan Corlett understood the importance of the SS Great Britain. After months of research and planning he mounted a rescue operation to bring the ship back to the United Kingdom. The salvage operation was made possible by several large donations, and those working on it managed to refloat the SS Great Britain on April 13, 1970, despite ferocious gales that lashed the area. The ship crossed the Atlantic sitting on a huge floating pontoon pulled by tugboats.

Despite spending nearly 100 years in the harsh weather of the South Atlantic region, the SS Great Britain was able to float up the River Avon under her own power. After sailing over one million miles, Brunel’s 155-year-old iron hull had stood the test of time superbly.

Exactly 127 years after she was christened – on July 19, 1970 – the SS Great Britain returned to Bristol’s Great Western Dockyard. 

The SS Great Britain sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge on her way "home." (Photo: history-for-kids.com)
The SS Great Britain sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge on her way “home.” (Photo: history-for-kids.com)

Corrosion was the biggest threat facing the iron ship, so conservators spent three years cleaning, repairing and restoring the ship’s hull, ensuring its preservation and preventing further corrosion or deterioration. 

Following this refitting, Brunel’s SS Great Britain was relaunched in 2005 as one of the world’s most important maritime museums. This very special ship is now part of the National Historic Fleet and also serves as a museum ship in Bristol Harbor.

The ship today in Bristol Harbor. (Photo: ssgreatbritain.org)
The ship today in Bristol Harbor. (Photo: ssgreatbritain.org)

SS Great Britain today

Dominating the historic waterfront of Bristol, the ship has been painstakingly restored to recreate life on the world’s first great luxury liner and to celebrate’s Bristol’s history as one of the most important ports in the world. 

Now, the SS Great Britain is one of Bristol’s most popular attractions. The complex where she resides includes the Dockyard Museum (which charts the ship’s history from her conception to the modern day, featuring some helpful historical context to steamships and personal effects from those associated with the ship), the ‘Being Brunel’ exhibition (which explores Bristol’s most famous resident in greater depth), and the ship itself, which has been lovingly restored since returning to Bristol in 1970.

YM Tutorial embarking on maiden voyage to Port of LA

Yang Ming’s newest 11,000-TEU container ship will call the Port of Los Angeles on its maiden voyage.

Yang Ming’s newest addition to its fleet entered service Friday on a trans-Pacific route that calls the Port of Los Angeles.

The YM Tutorial, with a carrying capacity of 11,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, was built by Imabari Shipbuilding Co. in Japan, where a naming ceremony was held in June. 

The port rotation for Yang Ming’s PS6 service is Qingdao and Ningbo, China; Pusan, South Korea; LA; Kobe, Japan; and Qingdao. According to MarineTraffic, the YM Tutorial was expected to arrive in Qingdao for loading on Saturday. 

The YM Tutorial is the 12th of 14 11,000-TEU newbuilds Yang Ming ordered, with the first delivered in 2020. Each vessel is about 1,100 feet long and 158 feet wide and equipped with scrubbers, water ballast treatment plants and alternative marine power systems. 

“This type of vessel adopts the twin-island design to increase loading capacity and navigational visibility to ensure greater efficiency and safety,” Yang Ming said in a news release Friday. “The ship hull form optimization will further increase energy savings and reduce overall emissions. 

“With the shorter length and beam, the ship is easier to maneuver during berthing or departure. The optimal dimensions enable the ships to call at major ports worldwide and pass through the new Panama Canal with little restriction, thereby facilitating greater flexibility in vessel deployment.” 

Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. is headquartered in Keelung, Taiwan. It is the world’s ninth-largest ocean carrier. American Shipper’s Greg Miller reported last month there will be major capacity infusions from global ocean shipping lines over the next two years — an expected 2.45 million TEUs in 2023 and 2.74 million TEUs in 2024.  

Container-ship building spree not over yet; new orders still rising

HMM growing container ship fleet as part of $11B investment

Yang Ming reports return to profitability

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills

TT Club publishes ‘Book it right and pack it tight’

Insurance and risk management firm TT Club says “Book it right and pack it tight” provides guidance for preparing unitized consignments of dangerous goods for carriage by sea.

By Peregrine Storrs-Fox 

It cannot be overstated how critical it is to maintain good practice when shipping dangerous goods. Thursday was the 10th anniversary of the fateful Atlantic crossing of the MSC Flaminia that cost the lives of three seafarers and resulted in extensive damage to cargo and the ship.

The forensic investigations and litigation that followed the MSC Flaminia incident adequately demonstrate the complexity of shipping dangerous goods through the maritime supply chain in terms of regulation, practices and expectations. The 2018 judgment in the liability phase of the litigation provides excellent analysis of logistics workflow and is recommended reading for that alone.

The court determined that the shipper had failed to take account of the nature of the cargo and the specific circumstances of this shipment. Equally, it found that the non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) had failed to act on the extensive information available from the shipper and specifically did not disclose key information about the cargo to the carrier. Following this reasoning, both the shipper and NVOCC were found strictly liable under the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA). The matter remains subject to appeal, unresolved 10 years on, displaying one of the long-tail consequences of such incidents.

Regulation responds to incidents

Aside from the litigation, there were lessons learned from this tragic incident that were subsequently incorporated into the relevant regulations, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code). In two iterations of the IMDG, new United Nations numbers were created for this type of product, within subdivision Class 4.1 for polymerizing substances, followed by additional requirements for cargoes classified in this way to be transported under temperature control. However, the process of amending the IMDG Code (and related United Nations recommendations on the transport of dangerous goods, commonly known as the U.N. model regulations or “Orange Book”) is a lengthy one, and these changes took several years to become mandatory. Worryingly, TT Club was alerted at the end of 2021 that the subject commodity was still being declared incorrectly under the previous Class 9 U.N. number.

Errors, misunderstandings, misdeclarations, and inadequate packing and securing lie at the heart of many significant incidents, both at sea and in storage facilities. As ultralarge container ships have continued to increase in size — the largest currently more than three times the capacity of MSC Flaminia — the potential for economic, human and environmental impacts rises in proportion.

IMDG Code 101

The IMDG Code was initially developed as an international code for the maritime transport of dangerous goods in packaged form approaching six decades ago. The aspiration was to improve practices, enabling the safe carriage of dangerous goods and mitigating the risks of disasters, injuries, loss of assets and environmental damage. Furthermore, training for all those involved in entering dangerous goods cargo into the maritime supply chain has been mandatorily applicable since Jan. 1, 2004, under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention.

Since its initial introduction, the IMDG Code has been updated on a biennial cycle to maintain pace with the ever-changing needs of the industry as well as respond to the lessons learned from incidents. Amendments to the IMDG Code typically originate from two sources: proposals submitted directly to the International Maritime Organization by member governments or industry bodies with consultative status, as well as amendments to take account of changes to the U.N. model regulations, which set the basic requirements for all transport modes.

Needless to say, ensuring compliance with the latest mandatorily applicable version of the IMDG Code is essential as a minimum standard for all those shipping dangerous goods by sea. Indeed, the MSC Flaminia judgment even made clear that the regulations merely set the baseline, an important statement for any entity or individual inclined to rely solely on the “letter” in relation to consigning dangerous goods.

‘Book it right and pack it tight’

Recognizing the importance of getting it right, TT Club has again teamed up with the U.K. P&I Club in order to support all participants in the maritime supply chain in publishing a detailed guidance document on the IMDG requirements: “Book it right and pack it tight.” This version of the guidance reflects the updates in Amendment 40-20 of IMDG, which has been available to be applied voluntarily since Jan. 1, 2020, but became mandatory on June 1 of this year. 

“Book it right and pack it tight” provides key insights for all participants in the freight supply chain responsible for preparing unitized consignments of dangerous goods for carriage by sea. The guide is intended to support shippers, forwarders, shipping line booking personnel and those who pack dangerous goods into cargo transport units (CTUs) in the technical aspects of the IMDG Code. The aspiration is to influence behaviors and levels of compliance by assisting all involved to understand their own duties and the duties of their contractual partners through the global supply chain.

The guidance is split into two parts. Part A of the guide breaks down the process of preparing and booking the cargo into practical steps and explores the roles and requirements of those involved in each step:

  • Step 1: Classification of dangerous goods.
  • Step 2: Selection of packaging.
  • Step 3: Marking and labeling the packages.
  • Step 4: Preparing the transport document for booking with the shipping line.
  • Step 5: Applying the segregation rules.
  • Step 6: Packing the cargo transport unit.
  • Step 7: Producing the cargo transport unit-packing certificate.

Part B provides background information to the IMDG Code, classification and references to further materials.

Cargo integrity matters

Closely related to the issues specific to dangerous goods are the broader issues of packing cargo in general. While the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) remains nonmandatory international law, it is clearly referenced from the IMDG Code. 

Equally, “Book it right and pack it tight” refers to the CTU Code as the definitive industry code of practice on how to pack and secure cargo of all types in cargo transport units, imploring all operators to adopt the principles therein, thus improving operational practices.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox is the risk management director for the TT Club, a provider of mutual insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry. 

HMM growing container ship fleet as part of $11B investment

Ocean carrier HMM announced Thursday it will invest $7.5 billion over the next five years on ships, terminals and logistics facilities.

HMM on Thursday unveiled plans to invest more than KRW 15 trillion ($11.3 billion) as part of a growth strategy that includes expanding its container ship fleet capacity from 820,000 twenty-foot equivalent units to 1.2 million TEUs by 2026.

The Seoul, South Korea-headquartered ocean carrier said it plans to diversify its business portfolio to enable it to take a “leap forward to be a global top-rated shipping and logistics company.” It added that the strategy was developed in response to “growing uncertainty arising from ever-changing business circumstances.” 

In addition to expanding its container ship fleet, HMM will increase its bulk fleet from 29 vessels to 55 by 2026.

“HMM also plans to secure logistics infrastructure such as terminals in key locations to reinforce its profit structure,” Thursday’s announcement said. 

The company said over the next five years it will spend KRW 10 trillion ($7.5 billion) on core assets such as ships, terminals and logistics facilities and KRW 5 trillion ($3.7 billion) on “future strategic projects to diversify HMM’s business.”  

HMM announced in May that it achieved record first-quarter earnings, with revenue jumping 103% year over year from KRW 2.4 trillion ($1.8 billion) to KRW 4.9 trillion ($3.7 billion). Operating profit increased threefold from KRW 1 trillion ($790 million) in the first quarter of 2021 to KRW 3.14 trillion ($2.5 billion) this year. And net profit leapt an astounding 20,000%, HMM said, from KRW 154 billion ($116 million) to KRW 3.13 trillion ($2.4 billion).

As part of its environmental strategy, the company will “explore the likelihood of ordering ships using alternative fuels in the future. HMM will also make enterprisewide R&D efforts into the use of carbon-neutral fuels in cooperation with industrial players.” 

Other investments include integration of HMM’s inland logistics network into its Hi Quote web sales platform, which was launched in June “to offer a comprehensive contact-fee sales experience featuring instant quotation, booking confirmation and space guarantee.” 

HMM said it will invest KRW 150 billion ($113 million) in digitalization to improve its e-platform. 

The strategy is in line with the priorities CEO Kyung-bae Kim outlined at the beginning of 2022. 

“We need to focus on strengthening our service competitiveness through reinforcing logistics and IT capabilities,” he said. “We also need to concentrate on specifying our medium- to long-term road map based on the development of new business opportunities. Constant efforts will be required to survive the paradigm change and to create a stable revenue stream.” 

HMM, the world’s eighth-largest ocean carrier, currently operates more than 100 vessels. 

HMM making change at helm

12 HMM container ships’ sticker price $1.57 billion

HMM makes billion-dollar turnaround from loss to record profit

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

FreightWaves Classics/ Infrastructure: Constantine’s Bridge spanned the Danube 

Budapest on the Danube. (Photo: thecruiseline.com)FreightWaves Classics profiles a bridge that was built nearly 1,700 years ago.

Budapest on the Danube. (Photo: thecruiseline.com)

The river

The Danube is one of the most famous rivers in the world, along with the Nile, the Yangtze, the Amazon and the Mississippi. Along their routes are places of great natural and man-made beauty, as well as key sites in human history and culture.

The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe. Its path takes it through much of central and southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. The river makes its way through 10 nations – more than any other river in the world. The Danube begins in Germany and flows southeast for 1,770 miles. Along its route, it passes through or borders Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea. The river’s drainage basin extends into nine more countries. Many European borders, especially in the Balkans, also follow the route of the Danube.

The route of the Danube through Europe. (Image: Public Domain/commons.wikimedia.org)
The route of the Danube through Europe. (Image: Public Domain/commons.wikimedia.org)

Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bratislava are among the largest cities on the Danube. They are also the capitals of their respective countries, which also means that the river passes through more national capitals than any other river in the world. In addition, five more capital cities lie in the Danube’s basin – Bucharest, Sofia, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Sarajevo. 

Interestingly, it’s not called the Danube in any of the countries it passes through. For example, in Germany the river is called the Donau, the Dunaj in the Czech Republic, and the Duna in Hungary. The Romans called it Danubius, based on an older Celtic name from which all the modern names are derived.

This map shows the darker area that encompasses the Danube's basin. (Image: CC BY-SA 4.0/ commons.wikimedia.org)
This map shows the darker area that encompasses the Danube’s basin. (Image: CC BY-SA 4.0/ commons.wikimedia.org)

The Danube divided nations and provide a route for commerce

The banks of the Danube have been the site of human habitation for millennia, and the river has been instrumental in many historical events and has defined historical borders. For almost its entire length the Danube was once the northern border of the Roman Empire. It provided a defensive line for the empire, as well as a “water highway” to transport troops and materials to Roman settlements downstream.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Danube continued to provide a defensive border for the  Eastern Roman Empire and then for the Ottoman Empire. The river’s separation between East and West would define the river’s story for centuries, particularly through World War I, World War II and the Cold War.

Since ancient times, the Danube also has served as a traditional trade route in Europe. Today, over 1,500 miles of its total length are navigable. In addition, the Danube is now linked to the North Sea via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, which connects the Danube at Kelheim with the Main at Bamberg. The river is also an important source of hydropower, drinking water and food. 

The Danube in Vienna. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/commons.wikimedia.org)
The Danube in Vienna. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/commons.wikimedia.org)

Constantine the Great

Constantine I (February 27, 272 – May 22, 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was the emperor of the Roman Empire from 306 to 337 AD. He was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Born in what is now Niš, Serbia, Constantine was the son of Flavius Constantius, a Roman army officer who had been one of the four rulers of the Tetrarchy. The Tetrarchy was the system instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293 to govern the ancient Roman Empire by dividing it between two senior emperors, and two junior emperors. The Tetrarchy marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. Constantine served with distinction under Diocletian and Galerius. His career as a soldier began in campaigns in the eastern provinces (against barbarians and the Persians). Then in AD 305 he was recalled to fight with his father in Britain. 

A modern bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed emperor in 306. (Photo: Chabe01/wikipedia.org)
A modern bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed emperor in 306.
(Photo: Chabe01/wikipedia.org)

After his father’s death in 306, Constantine became emperor. He was acclaimed by the Roman legions at Eboracum (now York, England), and eventually was victorious after civil wars against emperors Maxentius and Licinius. Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire by 324.

Following his ascension to emperor, Constantine began a series of reforms to strengthen the empire. He separated civil and military leaders, restructuring the government. To combat inflation, he introduced a new gold coin (the solidus, which was also known as the nomisma or the bezant). Constantine introduced the coin, and its weight of about 4.5 grams remained relatively constant. It became the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than 1,000  years. 

A solidus with an image of Constantine. (Photo: educalingo.com)
A solidus with an image of Constantine. (Photo: educalingo.com)

Constantine also reorganized the Roman legions into two different forces – mobile units (comitatenses) and garrison troops (limitanei) – to make the army more capable of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine then pursued successful military campaigns against various tribes on the Roman frontiers (such as the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths and the Sarmatians). He then resettled territories abandoned by his predecessors during the Crisis of the Third Century with citizens of Roman culture.

Parts of a giant statue of Constantine. (Photo: Khan Academy)
Pieces of a giant statue of Constantine. (Photo: Khan Academy)

Although Constantine lived much of his life as a pagan, he began to favor Christianity in 312. He became a Christian and was baptized. Constantine played a key role in the Edict of Milan in 313, which declared tolerance for Christianity in the Roman Empire. He also convened the First Council of Nicaea in 325; it produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. On his orders, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was constructed at the purported site of the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem and was deemed the holiest place in all of Christendom. Constantine has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor” and is recognized for moving Christianity towards the mainstream of Roman culture.

Constantine’s rule was a distinct era in the history of the Roman Empire; many consider that he began the transition of the empire from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages. Among his actions, he built a new imperial residence in Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) after himself. Constantinople subsequently became the new capital of the empire for more than 1,000 years. The later Eastern Roman Empire is termed the Byzantine Empire by modern historians. He replaced Diocletian’s Tetrarchy; Constantine established the principle of dynastic succession, leaving the empire to his sons and other members of the Constantinian dynasty. 

The northern and eastern frontiers of the Roman Empire in the time of Constantine, with the territories acquired in the course of the 30 years of military campaigns between 306 and 337. (Image: Cristiano64/commons.wikimedia.org)
The northern and eastern frontiers of the Roman Empire in the time of Constantine, with the territories acquired in the course of the 30 years of military campaigns between 306 and 337. (Image: Cristiano64/commons.wikimedia.org)

July 5, 328

A bridge built across the Danube made its formal debut on this date 1,694 years ago. Constantine was present for the opening of the bridge, which became known as Constantine’s Bridge. It was built between the town and fortress of Sucidava (now the Romanian port town of Corabia) and the town of Oescus (near the present-day Bulgarian village of Gigen).

Roman architect Theophilus Patricius designed Constantine’s Bridge. Among the key architectural features of the wooden arch bridge were its masonry piers and wooden superstructure. It also had two abutment piers at each end. “Abutments are used at the ends of bridges to retain the embankment and to carry the vertical and horizontal loads from the superstructure to the foundation.” The abutments also served as gates for the bridge, helping to protect it from attack at either end. The bridge’s wooden deck was 19 feet wide and crossed the river 33 feet above the water.

Carnuntum Archaeological Park at Petronell: remains of an inn between reconstructed public baths (left) and a large urban house (right). The  inset is the "hypocaust" (heating system) in the baths. This 4th century outpost was near the River Danube and the border between Austria and Slovakia. (Photo: Roberto Piperno)
Carnuntum Archaeological Park at Petronell: remains of an inn between reconstructed public baths (left) and a large urban house (right). The inset is the “hypocaust” (heating system) in the baths. This 4th century outpost was near the River Danube and the border between Austria and Slovakia. (Photo: Roberto Piperno)

While the bridge was destroyed within 50 years of its construction, it is still remembered today because of its overall length of 7,995 feet. Of that length, 3,730 feet spanned the Danube’s riverbed. Constantine’s Bridge was the longest ancient river bridge and one of the longest of all time.

The Dacian kingdom in 82 BC. 
(Image: commons.wikimedia.org)
The Dacian kingdom in 82 BC.
(Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

A key reason for the construction of Constantine’s Bridge was the effort to reconquer Dacia. A Dacian kingdom of variable size existed between 82 BC until the Roman conquest in AD 106. The capital of Dacia was located in modern Romania; it was destroyed by the Romans, but the same name was used by the Romans for the new city built as the capital of the Roman province of Dacia. 

As the Roman Empire weakened, the Dacians overthrew their Roman rulers until Constantine again conquered the area. The Dacian kingdom included the present-day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as smaller parts of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.