Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gas tankers piloted up the channel

Ships pass in the night, lit up like Christmas trees, diesel motors thudding softly as they slide across the darkened seascape. By day, their presence is more defined, especially when sunlight illuminates the bright red to orange paintwork typical of gas tankers.

Recording the comings and goings of shipping along the channel is a favourite pastime of many retirees living on Phillip Island. A pattern unfolds; ships become as friends visiting the seascape. LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) tankers come up the channel empty, fill with LPG and then return past our home and into Bass Strait, bound for overseas destinations such as Japan. The gas originates in Bass Strait, is processed in Sale, Gippsland, and is then piped to a terminal in Western Port Bay -- from where it fills tankers.

These tankers are guided along the shipping channel by a qualified pilot skilled in the currents and tides affecting Western Port Bay. The pilot boards the tanker before the ship enters the bay, and escorts it out as well.

Last year Doug had our Ford Ute converted to run on LPG. It has cut our fuel costs by half. We use LPG for our barbecue too. Meanwhile, I enjoy watching the wide variety of shipping that passes through our seascape. A submarine was one of the more unusual sights, but it left me feeling disturbed by its somewhat sinister presence. On the other hand, dolphins frolicking in the swell and the occasional whale give me a thrill of pleasure.

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