Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unconventional Wisdom

Mumbai is playing host to an unusual visitor these days: A cargo ship MV Wisdom, has mistakenly found berth at the popular Juhu beach in Mumbai. The sight is attracting huge crowds and on Sunday, almost a lakh of people are said to have thronged the beach, forcing the police to make “Ganapati visarjan type” arrangements to avoid accidents.

What exactly has happened?
 MV Wisdom, a 25-year old Cargo vessel was being towed by another tug vessel Seabulk Plover to Alang in Gujarat from Colombo. Alang, a small coastal town in the Gulf of Khambat in Gujarat, with a population of just 18,464, is known for its ship-breaking industry and recycles almost half the ships recycled anywhere in the world. On 11th June, 2011, somewhere along its way, the towing cable between Seabulk Plover and MV Wisdom snapped and the vessel drifted towards Mumbai coast. Apparently, the crew of Plover did not realize the cable had snapped until Wisdom was too close to the coast, and when they did, it was too late for Plover to attempt a rescue!

What about the ship?
MV Wisdom was built in 1985 by Rickmers Werft, Bremerhaven, Germany and carries a Singaporean flag. It is 147 meters long, and reportedly weighs 16000 tonnes. Wisdom is primarily a cargo ship, and carries a load of upto 9000 DWT (DWT, or Deadweight Tonnage is a measure of how much total weight a ship can safely carry, including the weight of cargo, fuel, crew etc., and is equal to around a thousand kg.) by weight and 700 TEU by volume (TEU, or Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, is a unit of cargo capacity by volume, approximately equal to a container that is 20 feet long X 8 feet wide X 8.5 feet in height).

When the cable broke, the ship was 11 nautical miles off the Western Coast of India i.e. a distance of around 20 km and must have been sailing at a speed of not more than 3-4 knots (6-8 km per hour). The ship has no fuel and no crew.

The ship design is a double bottom continuous hull from peak to peak bulkhead.  A double bottom is a ship hull design and construction method where the bottom of the ship has two complete layers of watertight hull surface, which provides added strength and robustness to the ship.

The technical details of the ship are given below:
Type of ship:                Cargo Ship   
IMO Number:              8417558         
Flag:                             Singapore
MMSI Number:           564239000     
Callsign:                       S6AC5           
Length:                         147.0m
Beam:                          22.0m

Is something fishy?
Questions have certainly been raised. Owners of the ship are still unknown. It is also being asked as to what the ship was doing so close to the coast, and inside of the country’s vital installations such as oil rigs when the normal route from Colombo to Alang should have been from further away in the high seas. It is also known from International Maritime records that Seabulk Plover has some very powerful radio equipment onboard, as well as qualified specialist radio operators. Plover set sail from Colombo on 28th May 2011, but stopped updating her position to the International Maritime Organization after 30th May 2011. (The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires all vessels over 299GT to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder on board, which transmits their position, speed and course, and some other static information such as vessel's name, dimensions and voyage details. For more details of the AIS project, see here). It is also not clear where is Plover now, and why its crew was not arrested or detained.

You can refer some interesting articles here and here.

What next? 
Authorities have so far failed to salvage the ship and tow it back into the sea. To get it afloat, a water level of approximately 4 meters is required.  The next attempt to salvage the ship will be made on July 3 when high tide is anticipated to be 4.58 meters. On that day, two tug boats of 90-tonne pull capacity will try to pull the ship and take it back atleast 3.5 nautical miles into the sea where it can anchor safely.

If the attempt fails, I hope we can look forward to a new sea-side restaurant.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hum Do, Hamare Do

A friend, who has a 7 year old child, is in a dilemma – whether to plan for a second child or not. As a father of two kids aged 8 and 3, I have rather strong (and some of you may find, surprising) views on the subject. I am putting them down here, and hope they trigger a chain of thought in you as well.

Of late, there has been a growing (and disturbing, in my opinion) trend among the educated, urban elite to go for only one child. A random check among more than 50 of my friends who are a parent show more than 60 % of them have only one child. This is in sharp contrast to the trend a generation back. Most of these friends themselves have atleast one sibling, but now when it is their turn to ‘deliver’ (literally!), they have stopped at one, giving no such privilege (of having a sibling) to their own child.

 I have heard people give all sorts of reasons on why they don’t want to plan for a second child. “Raising one child itself is too much for me! Look at my kid, she never listens to anyone! I can’t even think of having two!” is a common refrain.  Others want to “give their best” to their child, and so don’t want to have two, thinking that their energies will get divided if they have two kids, and leave deficiencies in their parental responsibilities. Or perhaps, it sounds “hep” and fashionable to have only one child, does it? Does it make a statement that you have “arrived”? Mind you, I am talking about the well educated, double income (often), urban middle and upper class, the well heeled, who have no financial constraints in raising a second child, and yet opt for only one. Why should they not give their child a privilege that their own parents were kind enough to give them?

What happens if you have two kids at home instead of one? Sure, there are some sacrifices involved, especially in the first couple of years of child birth. The would-be mother has to undergo nine months of pregnancy again, and after the child is born, you have to take some extra precautions and restrict your movements around for some time.  The housework goes up, and you might need an extra maid for a couple of years till the child is in its infancy. But these are minor inconveniences, when you consider the benefits that last a lifetime.

When the kids are young and growing, having a sibling at home brings immense benefits. They play with each other, learn to share, compete, even quarrel and then play again. They take care of each other, provide each other company, leaving the parents free to do their own thing. My elder daughter, who is eight years old, readies her younger one for school.  When they grow up, having an extended family only adds to one’s universe of love and affection. Think about it.

Two little emperors better than one!
What are the effects of a child being single on the child’s personality and emotional development? Researchers have studied this for decades, and the subject has attracted widespread attention and debate, especially in China where it is known as the “Little Emperor Syndrome”. A whole generation of Chinese “singletons”, born after the one-child norm was introduced for urban adults in 1979, are now in their youth. Some researchers have reported extreme pressure on these “Little Emperors” (typically, single child of well-to-do parents) to excel in education and elsewhere, and extreme pampering resulting in “stunting of social and emotional growth”. Some have reported these children are “....being over-indulged, lacking self discipline and having no adaptive capabilities”. In March 2007, some 30 delegates in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) called on the government to abolish the one-child rule, attributing their beliefs to "social problems and personality disorders in young people". But some other researchers have reported “no reliable differences between only children and those with siblings”. Some in the West claim single kids “mature early” and are “more achievement oriented”, pressured as they are from their parents for fulfilling their own unfulfilled dreams. (Information in this paragraph sourced from Wikipedia)

Whatever the truth, I do not see ‘single’ children benefiting in any significant way from the so-called ‘extra’ care and attention given to them as a result of their being the only child of their parent. Clearly, love and affection does not reduce if you divide it into two! Benefits of having a sibling thus appear to far outweigh the disadvantages (if any at all) of having one. I see no reason why today’s well educated, double income, upper class, urban elite should deprive their child of a brother or a sister.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thought for the day

Some good quotes on "Reality" that I came across recently...

1. The greatest folly of a man is being oblivious to all the changes happening around him - Anon

2. Frustrations come because we impose our illusions on reality - Osho Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain), controversial Indian mystic and spiritual teacher (1931-1990)

3. In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted - Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)