Today we are at sea and after a bit of a wobbly night, courtesy of that rainy weather front of yesterday, things settled down in the morning. The sun came out and it turned into a beautiful sea day. The ship is now doing what it should do to be a sea ship: move gently.

I have blogged before extensively about this area before so I wanted to go back to yesterday and the question how do all those ships get in and out on schedule and no conflicts. Apart from the cruise ships there were also another 5 or more cargo ships going in and out. Cruise and cargo and almost all of them at the same time and all through that single small entrance. Port Everglades is not really a complicated port to get in and out but everything happens around the same time. The cruise ships are on a day schedule and cargo ships like the same as overtime for longshoremen is expensive.

Thus there has to be a well-oiled machinery to make it all possible; safely and timely. It starts about two years before the actual call. The Head Office makes reservations and submits the sailing schedule. That is for the regular companies not much of a problem as we have our own docking pier. It is getting more complicated if two ships of the company are in on the same day. Then you might be banished to a dock where nobody really wants to go. (Read: too small a dock, not enough space for everything)

PortEvergladesmap2003For the Westerdam it means – in principle Pier 26, every Saturday and similar with the other docks for RCI, Celebrity, Princess and Carnival.  If the regular dock is occupied with one company ship, then the other one is accommodated somewhere else even at a cargo berth if needed.  In that way Port Everglades has been able to get 11 cruise ships in on occasion. Mostly around Christmas when the ships suddenly go to a 10 and 11 day cycle to get Christmas and New Year scheduled at sea.

A busy day in 2008 with 8 cruise ships in, including 3 Holland America (pier 26, pier 20 and pier 21)(Courtesy www.

A busy day in 2008 with 8 cruise ships in, including 3 Holland America (pier 26, pier 20 and pier 21)(Courtesy www.

When the day of the port call comes closer, the Captain sends his ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) at the pilot station to the agent and often also to the pilot station itself. The ships agent talks to the harbor master and the ETA is either approved or has to be amended. If there would be 11 cruise ships expected then the Harbor Master starts deciding the arrival times of the ships. With the best pecking order to ensure that all ships are coming in, in the most economical way. It does not make sense to have a ship for pier 26 docking after the ship at pier 25 as the pier 26 ship then has to pass that earlier arriving ship. Together with the pilots the intervals between ships are figured out as the pilots will have to bring more than one ship in. If there are 5 pilots and 6 ships then pilot 1 needs some time to get from ship one to ship 6.

If this situation occurs, the harbor master does not approve an ETA, he/she dictates a time. This often gives a lot of noise from unhappy captains but the grumbling is mostly low key as they understand the reason very well.

Another consideration, which came into play yesterday, can be the weather. Yesterday pier 26 was empty but Pier 24/25 was not. Pier 26 is also further up the Intra-coastal waterway necessitating a longer distance, backing up in a small fairway. Thus for the Westerdam it was much faster and much safer in the prevailing wind to go to Pier 21. Easy to dock at and plenty of space if you would blow away. Also on departure it is a dock which basically only needs a full ahead and hard a sb. and you are gone.

Yesterday morning all the cruise ships came in between 05.00 and 07.00 with 20 minutes in between and once they were in it was the time of the cargo ships. As Pier 19/20 was empty, it was occupied by a container ship as it solved that issue of going up the Intra Coastal Water Way.

Tomorrow we are in Grand Turk Island and the weather calls for Partly Cloudy skies, 83oF / 28oC and a gentle breeze. We will be joined by a Carnival ship later on in the morning so the place will be heaving.