Boris’ adventures at sea

From meerkats to machinery, ships provide small island communities with access to goods and trade

Hugh Town harbour at St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles, where Boris’ adventure began. Credit: Shutterstock 

Small island communities rely on local shipping lines to deliver goods in the same way that large islands and continents do.

The list of items moved on the small ships that serve these remote communities is wide, and includes food, building materials and vehicles. One particular cargo, however, recently carried onboard the palletised-cargo carrier Gry Maritha, pushed the captain’s responsibility towards the ship’s cargo literally over the edge.

The 590 gross tonnage ship was on its regular route between Penzance on the UK southeast mainland and Hugh Town on St Mary’s, the largest of the Scilly Isles with a population of around 2000, when two of its passengers – meerkats Doris and Boris – managed to escape from their cage whilst arriving in Penzance, reveals a recent BBC report.

After their escape the two meerkats, which were being transported from Saint Mary’s to a zoo on the mainland, ran around on deck, during which time Doris was captured by the crew, said the BBC. Boris, however, “jumped 30ft (10m) into the water”. 

The ship’s master, Tom Sexton, decided to get into the water and rescue the animal, which weighed just under a kilo.

Captain Sexton told the BBC: “I watched him go over the side and saw he could swim, so I had a bit of time to get changed [into boardshorts and gloves to protect from potential bites] into something a bit more decent, you know.”

The rescue had a happy ending with Boris, happy to be saved, being lifted up in a small box hung over the side of the vessel. He is now settled in his new home.

MarineTraffic ship tracking data shows that the Gry Maritha provides a year-round service between Hugh Town on Saint Mary’s to Penzance, 60 km or 33 nautical miles to the west.

A report on the same story in The Maritime Executive reveals that master Tom Sexton, took command of the small cargo ship in April “after the vessel’s senior captain retired in the spring after 22 years with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company.”

Gry Maritha can carry palletised cargoes and bulk fuel, and is equipped with a “deck crane which enables the ship to carry large goods up to a maximum weight of six tons, including vehicles and machinery,” said the article.

Ship Gry Maritha operates between Penzance and Hugh Town. Source: MarineTraffic
Ship Gry Maritha operates between Penzance and Hugh Town. Source: MarineTraffic

It’s not a one-way trade route, however, as Saint Mary’s has a sizable flower bulb export industry, many of which will likely be palletised and transported on the Gry to the mainland and onwards to other markets.

It’s just one example of an island community that relies on small cargo vessels, such as Gry Maritha, for its livelihood.

For the nearly 3,700 people living on the Falkland Islands in the Middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, and 480 km (260 nautical miles) away from the tip of South America, the ships that call at Stanley port provide a vital link with the wider world. 

According to MarineTraffic data, the most common type of vessel to call is fishing vessels at 46%, followed by trawlers at 15%, pleasure craft, 9%, and general cargo represents only 3 %.

The mid-sized port can receive vessels with a maximum deadweight of 5,733 tonnes and 6.5 metre draft.

From the mid to end of June it handled a total 16 vessels, one of which was a dry bulk carrier, with four recorded as ‘other markets’.

Vessel calls at Stanley over two weeks in June. Source: MarineTraffic
Vessel calls at Stanley over two weeks in June. Source: MarineTraffic

With so much fishing activity it is no surprise that at time of writing reefer ship, Sein Honor, was at Stanley, having sailed from the Uruguayan port of Montevideo. It is likely taking on cargoes of fish to take to South America markets.

MarineTraffic ship tracking data shows the Sein Honor recent path
The Sein Honor as seen on the MarineTraffic Live Map. Source: MarineTraffic

Meanwhile, in the South Pacific and 3,700 km (nearly 2,000 nautical miles) away from Australia, the Port of Funafuti enables vital supplies to reach the 12,081 people that inhabit the nine islands of Tuvalu. Consisting of one berth, the port can handle vessels with a maximum draft of 9.7 metres and deadweight of 12,927 tonnes. MarineTraffic data shows that it receives passenger/ cargo ships, container ships, and general cargo and cargo ships in equal measure, with each ship type representing 25% of total calls.

On 1 July, passenger/ cargo vessel Nivaga III was berthed alongside, and recent activity recorded by MarineTraffic suggests that the vessel moves between the small islands that make up the archipelago, bringing together its people.

Ship tracking data about the passenger vessel Nivaga III
Passenger/cargo ship Nivaga III as seen on the MarineTraffic Live Map. Source: MarineTraffic

According to World Population Review there are 11,000 permanently inhabited islands, ranging from the small such as St Mary’s to vast areas of land like Australia. Irrespective of the size, the cargo that leaves and arrives at these islands is in the most part transported by sea.

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