Places I Love – Ship Spotting Around Fremantle Port

You don’t need to board a plane or a train or a ship to see the world, or even Fremantle and environs, just join our Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey as she takes you to the places she loves!

Are you a ship spotter?

There is train spotting and plane spotting and, of course, ship spotting!

So what is ship spotting – a type of hobby or a time waster?

I’m sure many of our Shipping News readers are avid ship spotters. Are you one of those people who sit in your car at South Mole and watch the ships come and go? Rous Head and the South Mole are popular ship spotting haunts too. You can get very close to these enormous ships as they travel between the moles. Maybe you hang around the harbour or look at the ships lined up in Gage Road?

No matter where you are in Fremantle, you will get glimpses of ships in the port. You often don’t realise just how big something really is until you have a scale to measure it against. It is fascinating watching these giant ships manoeuver and turn in the inner harbour or dwarf the lighthouses as they enter and leave port.

Visiting cruise ships attract really large crowds. While there are no large cruise ships visiting Fremantle at the moment, expect them soon, from the end of next month. But there are lots of other ships – enormous RO-ROs – roll on, roll off vehicle carriers, container ships (Box Boats), fuelling vessels, research vessels, naval ships, pilot boats and tugs and dredgers. Then there are ferries, yachts and powerboats, and cranes and trains.

Fremantle is a very busy port with ships coming and going all the time – the port turns over $3.6 million of trade every 24 hours. Yesterday, the last Thursday in September was World Maritime Day – a day to appreciate the importance of the maritime industry and to recognize seafarers who always ensure secure and safe transport of goods around the world.

There are three big ships in Fremantle’s inner harbour today.

Theben, one of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen fleet of 128 RO-RO vessels, was tucked into the berth next to the old railway bridge on the northern side. She is 199.9 metres long and painted bright turquoise and green. When heading north over the railway bridge, you couldn’t miss her. From Freo, she heads to the Port of Ulsan in South Korea.

At the passenger terminal, Hoegh Berlin, a 17-year old vehicle carrier was offloading its cargo of utes, suvs, boats and caravans. She sails under the flag of the Bahamas and her next port of call is Shanghai. She is longer than Theben and has an overall length of 228.7 metres. Articulated lorries were busy transferring cars, caravans and utes out of the port.

Across the harbour, the 317 metre long MSC Achimidis was being loaded with containers. She is even longer than the other ships in port with a gross tonnage of about 90,000 mass tonnes. To compare, the Optus Stadium’s AFL field is 165 metres long.

We are very isolated here in WA and almost everything we own has at some point in its lifetime been packed into a container and shipped across the ocean. We live in a world of globalized production and cheap freight rates and free trade agreements.

I am fascinated by the invisible systems that keep the world running. The chair I am sitting on as I write this and the computer I am typing on came here by complex supply chains from around the world. If you look at ship-tracking Web sites, the oceans of the world are black with dots. Each dot is a ship, each ship is laden with boxes and each box is full of goods.

The first ever container ship was a refitted oil tanker and carried 58 shipping containers. Since then in 1956, container shipping has developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. Containerization has paved the way for Asia to become the world’s workshop with an amazing variety of low-cost products arriving from all over the globe.

As of June 2022, the record for the largest container ship is the Ever Alot, built by CSSC with the capacity to carry 24,004 TEU. (A forty-foot container is regarded as two twenty-foot containers or 2TEUs).

On the way to Rous Head, the area is stacked high with colourful containers. They are hauntingly beautiful in an abstract sort of way. This is an unseen world for many people and it’s a world that holds the key to our economy, our environment and our very civilization.

Happy World Maritime Day!

* Story and photographs by Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey. Jean is a regular feature writer and photographer here on the Shipping News. Discover more of her informative Places I Love stories as well as other feature stories and Freo Today photographs, right here.

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