Sunday, May 15, 2016

On Containers

Another anniversary. Fifty years ago on May 5, 1966, the first shipping container on Sea-Land's MS Fairland landed in Bremen's port and simply fell from the hook. It seemed that the Klabautermann (ship's kobold) and with him the traditional dockers had cursed this neumod'schen Kroam (modern stuff). The accident was enough proof for Hamburg's port authorities not to accept the standard 40 feet containers. They only followed with a delay of several years. Now the port authorities ask to deepen the Elbe River against the opposing Greens governing the city state as a junior partner in a coalition with the Reds (Social Democrats).

MSC Zoe, biggest container ship in the world, only half loaded
 arrives at Hamburg port on August 1, 2015 (©dpa).
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CSCL Indian Ocean run aground due to a damaged rudder on the Elbe River on February 4, 2016.
Tugboats had to wait several days before the ship could be towed free at a high tide (©dpa)
In fact, Hamburg risks that the super container carriers will avoid to "diesel" up the 100 kilometers from the German Sea and rather head to the Jade deepwater port Red Baron visited in 2009.

Still all empty. Jade deepwater port in 2009.
Containers are a rather traditional way of transporting goods. In the Middle Ages and beyond wooden barrels were the favorite containers to store goods. Whether it was the transport of salted herrings from the Baltic Sea, olive oil from Spain, or gunpowder all over Europe barrels were used. Hence the trade of K├╝fer (cooper) was in demand and highly profitable. Looking at the stained glass windows of the Minster Church donated by the rich cooper guild you will notice that wine was the mayor trade around Freiburg and therefore relevant utensils are shown at the bottom.

©Joergens.mi/Wikipedia
The upper parts represent from left to right: The man grilled to death and shown as a deacon with his grate, Saint Laurentius (Lawrence of Rome). He is the patron of trades that have to do with fire. Iron bands around the barrels were applied glowing red. They subsequently shrunk and forced the wooden staves into shape. In the middle the Virgin is shown as the Queen of Heaven carrying little Jesus. On the right hand side the legendary Bishop of Myra with miter and crozier, Saint Nicholas, the patron of trade, is depicted.

©Joergens.mi/Wikipedia
A Swabian farmer once decided to buy the city of Freiburg. So one evening he filled several barrels (sic!) with his gold ducats and left with his horse carts in the direction of Freiburg early in the morning.  When he arrived at the city's Swabian Gate in the afternoon he immediately saw the city council formulating his demand. Some of the city councillors went with him to the Schwabentor but when they opened the barrels they only found pebble stones. What had happened? During the night the down-to-earth wife of the farmer had simply replaced the gold by stones. Over the centuries the painting on the Gate was conserved and the laughter about the naive Swabian farmer is still going on.

Sitting on a powder keg (©Wikipedia)
In the 19th century Thomas Nast, a German-born American caricaturist, considered to be the Father of the American Cartoon, depicted a drunk Irishman sitting on and lighting a powder keg. The cartoon is called The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things.

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