15 May 2012

Busy Caniçal

The most recent Portuguese commercial port is located in the small village of Caniçal, in Madeira island. Before its existence, all the cargo operations took place in Funchal. By the time I started working as a Pilot in Madeira the port of Funchal was reaching its limits, with a North Pier crowded with containers and the South breakwater dividing its space between containers, general cargo and tourism. The decision to build a new port was obvious and much needed. And logistically speaking it was a move well done. However, today, almost seven years after Caniçal's full operational condition, this port remains the one, in Madeira, where we make our most "radical" manoeuvres. Three main factor contribute to that more "aggressive" pilotage: the ports narrow manoeuvring basin, its open exposure to the fresh NE winds (the most constant and common in Madeira) and the size of the vessels (they keep getting bigger). Counteracting these negative factors is not easy, however we have manage to do so over the past seven years. How? Well, although the vessels keep getting bigger, their manoeuvrability characteristics are also improving. Nowadays, even in the simplest cargo vessel, an asset as a bow thruster and/or a Becker-type rudder is quite common and so are the variable pitch propellers.
Besides these advances in marine technology that help us to do our job easier every passing year, we can count also with a fleet of four modern tractor tugs that, really, make a difference in most manoeuvres we do. With bollard pulls ranging from 10 to 40 tons, we owe to them and to their professional crews and tug masters, the success of many manoeuvres that, otherwise, would be impossible to accomplish.
Anyway, not all the days in Caniçal are difficult. Far from it. Since the Spring of 2011 until now I've been witness of the best weather in Madeira, in the past seven years. We simply didn´t have any Winter. More than one year of calm weather. And, naturally, that plays a major role on the manoeuvring dynamics in Caniçal.
Particularly in the beginning of the week. Caniçal is at its best on Mondays and on Tuesdays. Busy days, those two. Those are the liner days. When the port receives the feeders that, every week, supply the island (and all the islands worldwide, for that matter!) with all the goods we need to survive: from chocolate to wheat, from yogurts to meat, from fresh vegetables to consumption electronics. All that comes from sea (the cargo transported by air is negligible, even in worldwide numbers). And, like everywhere in the world, in Madeira the working week starts Monday.
So, as soon as our regular visitors are alongside, we are finishing our work and the stevedoring teams are starting theirs. And in a short time of one to two hours many of those goods are already in the market while the island awakes for a new week.

A regular visit to our port, every Monday morning, is the Monte da Guia, from Transinsular. A German construction, from the J.J. Sietas shipyard, the Monte da Guia is, together with her twin sister Monte Brasil, the largest unit owned by this Portuguese shipowner.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: N/M Monte da Guia
IMO number: 9123788
Type: Container carrier
LOA: 127 mts
Beam: 19.40 mts
Summer DWT: 8836 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 6.50 mts
Propulsion: Diesel engine, MAK 8M, one variable pitch propeller, 6000 KW total propulsion power
Pitch: Left-handed
Rudder: Conventional
Bow thruster: 1 (total power: 500 KW)
Stern Thruster: N

The N/M Monte da Guia, departing from Caniçal on a peaceful Spring afternoon, opening her stern  with the help of the Starboard side forward spring line.

From the Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, the oldest Portuguese (and centenary) shipowner still in activity, here is the container carrier Funchalense 5 leaving the central berthing position of the Caniçal North pier, on her departure to Leixões.
This vessel remains, presently, the most modern unit of the decaying Portuguese merchant fleet.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: N/M Funchalense 5
IMO number: 9388390
Type: Container carrier
LOA: 126.87 mts
Beam: 20.40 mts
Summer DWT: ?
Max draft on manoeuvre: 6.60 mts
Propulsion: Diesel engine, MAK 8M 43C, one variable pitch propeller, 7200 KW total propulsion power
Pitch: Right-handed
Rudder: Becker flap rudder
Bow thruster: 1 (total power: 500 KW)
Stern Thruster: N

Another view of the N/M Funchalense 5, after disembarking the Pilot and making way to Leixões.

The OPDR Cadiz, from the german shipowner OPDR, or Oldenburg-Portugiesische Dampfschiffs-Rhederei , is also a regular in Caniçal, making bi-weekly calls on Tuesdays.  Here she is, alongside by Port, on the South breakwater, several weeks ago.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: M/V OPDR Cadiz
IMO number: 9216858
Type: Container carrier
LOA: 127.95 mts
Beam: 20.60 mts
Summer displacement: 12222 tons
Max draft on manoeuvre: 7.50 mts
Propulsion: Diesel engine, MAK 7M43, 1 variable pitch propeller, 6300 KW total propulsion power
Pitch: Right-handed
Rudder: Conventional
Bow thruster: 1 (total power: 600 KW)
Stern Thruster: N

On the past week, however, she was replaced, due to dry-docking, in her routine call by the M/V Mistral. Bigger than the usual OPDR's we normally receive, the Mistral, with her massive 10000 GT and 135 mts long, imposes respect when alongside in such a small port:

After the cargo operation is done, another departure manoeuvre and off she goes, South bound, to the Canary islands:

Pilot Card:
Ships name: M/V Mistral
IMO number: 9376024
Type: Container carrier
LOA: 134.44 mts
Beam: 22.74 mts
Summer displacement: 15747 tons
Max draft on manoeuvre: 8.80 mts
Propulsion: Diesel engine, 1 variable pitch propeller, 8400 KW total propulsion power
Pitch: Right-handed
Rudder: Conventional
Bow thruster: 1 (total power: 750 KW)
Stern Thruster: 1 (total power: 450 KW)