Canada finds historic Franklin expedition wreck

Canada has found one of the two sunken British ships from Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition that disappeared in the Arctic, parts of the deck and mainmast intact.

The wreck was discovered about 11 meters (36 feet) below the surface in Queen Maud Gulf, off the Nunavut mainland, about 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) north of Toronto, said John Geiger, chief executive officer of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which participated in the search.

“This is one of the two most important undiscovered shipwrecks in the world,” Geiger said today in a statement. “It’s a wonderful and exciting discovery that promises to shed more light on the ill-fated expedition’s final months, weeks, and days.”

It’s not clear yet whether the vessel is Her Majesty’s Ship Erebus or the HMS Terror, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper who announced the discovery at a media conference in Ottawa on Tuesday. The discovery’s authenticity was confirmed on Sept. 7 using a remotely operated underwater vehicle, Harper said in a statement.

Finding the ships has been part of a drive by Harper’s Conservative government to assert sovereignty over Canada’s north at a time when territorial claims in the Arctic are being challenged internationally. Parks Canada, a federal agency, has led six searches for the lost ships since 2008.

“This is truly a historic moment for Canada,” Harper said in his statement. “Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.”

Divers are exploring the wreck, which was found about a couple hundred kilometers south of the initial search area, to identify it before weather conditions worsen, Geiger said in a telephone interview. Future efforts will continue the search for the other Franklin vessel, he said.

“We only have one of the two expedition ships, so there will be ongoing efforts to locate the other vessel and complete the story,” he said.

Parks Canada’s Ryan Harris, who led the search, revealed today in Ottawa a sonar image of the find that showed deck structures and the mainmast, which was sheared off by the ice when the ship sank. The contents of the ship are likely well preserved, Harris said, according to a press pool report.

The Erebus and Terror left England in May 1845 under command of Franklin on an Arctic expedition to search for a Northwest Passage to Asia. The expedition’s two ships set out with 134 officers and men.

The ships became trapped in ice in late 1846 and remained so for about one and a half years, according to a message found in a cairn on King William Island in 1859. The message said Franklin died on June 11, 1847 and an additional 23 crew members had also perished. On April 1848, the 105 remaining survivors deserted the ships. The entire complement of both ships perished and the ships were lost to the ice, according to a briefing on a government website.

The missing ships and fate of Franklin and his crew sparked searches by British and American expeditions starting in 1848, with more recent efforts by Canadian researchers. Canadian archaeologists in July 2010 found the wreck of the HMS Investigator, which was abandoned in 1853 after becoming trapped in ice while searching for Franklin.

This year’s search, which also included involvement by the Arctic Research Foundation, the Canadian Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Navy and Nunavut government, was initially focused in Victoria Strait off the west coast of King William Island.

 

Asian container ports struggle with the worst congestion in 20 years

Congestion at key Asian ports is the worst it has been over the last 20 years and the situation looks set to continue, according to two executives from one intra-Asia carrier.

Speaking to Containerisation International, MCC Transport chief executive Tim Wickmann and chief commercial officer Naresh Potty said that schedule reliability was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain because of the congestion, which began around March.
Potty named Manila as the worst-performing port but said that Hong Kong, Shanghai, Qingdao, Incheon and Cat Lai in Ho Chi Minh City were also badly affected.
Hong Kong congestion is causing particular issues for carriers, they said.

Wickmann said the problem appeared to be partly caused by the complicated nature of vessel-sharing agreements, with cargo for several carriers being carried on a single ship that then needs to transfer to each of the carriers’ feeder, barge and intermodal service providers.
This has greatly increased the number of inter-terminal transfers.
“I have to say that I have been in this business for more than 24 years and I don’t think I have experienced anything as operationally challenging as I have over the last six months,” Wickmann said.
He added that the congestion is increasing costs because vessels were having to wait for days outside terminals.
“The way we have been overcoming this is by omitting ports,” said Mr Wickmann. “You start by waiting, and after two or three days you wonder how you will get back on schedule.
“So you take fewer moves than you were planning in certain ports and this affects vessel utilisation, or you simply omit calls.”
Potty added it was difficult for short-haul carriers to speed up services to make up the lost time because the shorter transit times allowed for less flexibility than longer-haul services.
“It also creates a snowball effect where you still have the containers in the port waiting collection and by omitting ports you just worsen the situation in the transhipment ports,” Potty said.
“The cost for us is also not exactly cheap as the port charges us on a per daily basis for storage depending on how long the container sits there.”
Wickmann said that MCC Transport, which offers both feeder and intra-Asia services, has also taken the step of adding ships to services in order to create extra buffer time at terminals, but this increased the cost of running a service.
Asked whether it is possible to implement a congestion surcharge, the two said it would be difficult because of the competitive nature of the intra-Asia trade and because the level of congestion between the terminals at a particular port varies, meaning not all carriers will apply a charge.
“Customers need to get used to the fact that fast transit times are a thing of the past because services with fast transit times don’t have a congestion buffer and that means that every time there is a delay we can’t meet our schedules,” said Wickmann.
“Instead of looking for a fast transit time when everything goes well, which is happening less often, they should look for a schedule they can trust.”
Potty said the problem could get worse, as the typhoon season has yet to get under way and intra-Asia volumes are growing by around 6%-7% per year.