Monday, September 07, 2009

Virtual Shipspotting

Sabine has arrived in Stockholm, but her household is still in transit. Actually, the latest news from the moving company was that her belongings are on a ship named "Stuttgart Express", en route to Southampton, England, and scheduled to arrive at Stockholm in early October.

On Saturday, out of curiosity, I googled for that ship, and was completely amazed about the amount of information I could find.

The "Stuttgart Express" is a 16-year old cargo vessel, 294 metres long, and with a deadweight of 67680 tons:

The "Stuttgart Express" (photo via

According to the ship's itineraries history, the Stuttgart Express has left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, August 29 at 20:30 UTC, and reached the English Channel on Friday, September 4, around noon. Though, it didn't stop in Southampton, but went straight on to Antwerp, Belgium, where it arrived at the port on Saturday, September 5, at 9:30 in the morning.

The ship spent Saturday in Antwerp, and left for England early on Sunday morning. However, destination was not Southampton, but a place on the southern bank of the Thames estuary:

No idea what it did there, there seems to be no port, but maybe it has bunkered fuel. Anyway, it left that place this morning before five,

heading for … Bremerhaven, Germany.

Right now, the Stuttgart Express has passed the island of Norderney in the Wadden Sea:

No idea when it will arrive at Southampton to disembark the container, but somehow, the next four weeks have to be spent.

The Stuttgart Express via


  1. Just a quick correction. Halifax is in Nova Scotia. Not Newfoundland.

  2. Bee, do you "have too much time on your hands"? ;-) Actually from what I read, you use your time well.

    BTW everyone, doing searches and other Internet access etc. does use up some energy. So it's best to save by letting Google fill in instead of actually Googling for correct spelling of names etc. Also save commonly used ref. pages on your drive as either "work offline" or direct HTML files and read them there, etc. All those Gigs, and there's something helpful to be done with them!

  3. Neil: I have currently so much time on my hand that I didn't even click on the link that Stefan sent to track the ship.

  4. Hello Stefan,
    No idea what it did there, there seems to be no port, but maybe it has bunkered fuel.
    "London Thamesport" is located there. I guess this harbour is the
    replacement for London harbour,
    because Thames is too shallow for
    modern ships.
    Do seagoing vessels still go up
    the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the great lakes?
    In this case it were possible to
    load the container on a ship rather close to Waterloo/Canada?

  5. Hi Stefan,

    It is amazing what one can keep track of these days between the wonders of the internet and GPS, one of just two technologies that mark us as the first group of space age peoples. Stuttgart is an appropriate name to give to an express ocean transport seeing it is a city whose name means a place for breeding horses and has had the horse as its coat of arms for almost a millenium. It is curious though that with Bee’s things being already on your side of the pond that it will take another month before they arrive. It probably has more to do with the logistics of import bureaucracy, then those of transportation from this point.

    By the way Bee might be happy to discover that although Stockholm is further north then Kitchener/Waterloo it actually traditionally has milder winters. The winter nights however are longer, yet to compensate the summers days are also longer.



  6. Hi Georg,

    "Do seagoing vessels still go up the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the great lakes? "

    They still do but nothing the size and draught of the Stuttgart Express as the locks are not large or deep enough.



  7. Hello Phil,
    thanks for that info. When I was a boy,
    I had (as many German pupils) to
    learn "John Maynard" (a ballad by Fontane)
    by heart.
    Thus I have a certain emotional
    connection to ships on lake Erie :=)
    Hello Stefan,
    will the container with Bees belongings
    really be unload at Southampton?
    I know by chance, that most containers
    going to poland, russia or Finland
    are unloaded in Bremerhaven or Hamburg.
    Rest of the way then is by truck.
    From Southampton they will have to use another ship, presumably to
    Gothenburg, then a truck to Stockholm. Strange ways.

  8. Hi LyleDAL,

    Just a quick correction. Halifax is in Nova Scotia. Not Newfoundland.

    Thanks - I have fixed that!

    Hi Georg,

    "London Thamesport" is located there.

    Ah, thanks for that information! Indeed, the Stuttgart Express is listed in the London Thamesport Vessel Schedule: arrived Sun 06 Sep 09 at 19:20, departed Mon 07 Sep 09 at 05:39.

    Hi Georg, Phil,

    Do seagoing vessels still go up
    the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the great lakes?

    Thanks for the explanation about the Seaway! It seems that big ships can travel upstream up to Montreal - there is right now a "Toronto Express" anchored in Montreal, which has less tonnage and is slower than the Stuttgart Express, but otherwise has a similar size.

    Concerning if it did make more sense to ship the container from Montreal to Bremerhaven or even Göteborg - I have now idea what is behind the logistics of the moving company. Maybe for a move Waterloo-Stockholm, it is cheaper to use a truck to Halifax and from Southampton to Stockholm than to hire a container for a longer journey?

    Anyway, I will follow the Stuttgart Express over the next days - to see if eventually she will make it to Southampton ;-)

    it is indeed fascinating how much real-time information about ship traffic is available through the web!

    Cheers, Stefan

  9. Hi Georg,

    Das Schiff geborsten. Das Feuer verschwelt. Gerettet alle. Nur einer fehlt!

    -Theodor Fontane: John Maynard

    I had never realized the sailors of the Great Lakes had been so immortalized in Germany, through their literature.


  10. Hi Stefan,

    I would suspect the container went from Waterloo to Halifax via rail and then loaded onto the ship in Halifax at their container docks. On your end however I don’t quite get the Southampton thing seeing it stopped in Bremerhaven and now is headed for Rotterdam. You would have thought they would have unloaded the container in Bremerhaven and now is reloading for a continuing voyage. In looking back through the itinerary I noticed it was in Oakland California less than a month ago and began to wonder about the life of a sailor. One thing for certain if there be any that are on the go more than a theoretical physicist it is this lot :-)



  11. Hello Stefan,
    this shipspotting is really funny.
    I "watched" the rendezvous with the
    pilot vessel outside the harbour
    and the tugging to the container
    terminal this afternoon.
    Hello Phil,
    Fontane wrote a second ballad on a modern, not romantic or historic
    theme: "Die Brück' am Tay".
    The wiki page includes a photo of the broken Firth of Tay bridge (1879)

  12. Hi Georg,

    I "watched" the rendezvous with the
    pilot vessel

    That's nice! I have seen the two loops in the ships's path early this afternoon outside Rotterdam harbour and was wondering what was going on - so it was waiting to be tugged in!

    By the way, latest shipping news: Next destination of the Stuttgart Express following Rotterdam is Halifax, Nova Scotia. No stop anymore in Southampton. She is going back across the Atlantic again!

    But this means that the container with the boxes should be somewhere on shore already, perhaps in Bremerhaven? Let's hope the moving company knows where ;-)

    Cheers, Stefan

  13. Hi Stefan,

    Let's hope the moving company knows where ;-)

    Let’s hope that Bee’s belongings are not taking the scenic route:-)



  14. Hi Georg,

    “Ein fester Kessel, ein doppelter Dampf,
    die bleiben Sieger in solchem Kampf,
    und wie's auch rast und ringt und rennt,
    wir kriegen es unter: das Element.”

    -Theodor Fontane- Die Brücke am Tay

    “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. “

    -William Shakespeare- Macbeth

    It appears Fontane was a Shakespeare fan and a bit of a fatalist; one who also didn’t have much trust in or use for technology. Is this a subliminal message on your part to suggest that despite all the modern wonders of the internet and GPS that the outcome regarding Bee’s things still rest with the fates. In that case we should advise Stefan to go out and try to buy some of the following to assure their safe arrival :-)

    “Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog “

    -William Shakespeare- Macbeth



  15. According to the update from the moving company the ship did arrive and did unload in Southampton on Sep 4, and my boxes are now either in UK customs or already back on the road.

  16. Hello Bee,
    this is rather strange. Here:
    You can follow the Stuttgart Express'
    way on 4. Sept.
    There are no signs that she stayed
    in Southampton.
    But the ship was in Thames Harbour
    (after Antwerp, before Bremerhaven).
    An important factor is, what goods
    are in that container, in addition to Your
    belongings, and, what is the destinationof those ?

  17. Hi Georg,

    Yes, I've been wondering too. Maybe if there's very few things to be unloaded, they don't stay in the harbor? The coordinates are not updated too frequently, you see it in the gaps between the data points, the rest is an extrapolation. If they just didn't submit their stop in Southampton, it wouldn't show up in the graph.

    Or maybe they just dumped my boxes into the water and customs has to fish them out ;-)



  18. Dear Georg, Bee,

    You can follow the Stuttgart Express' way on 4. Sept. There are no signs that she stayed in Southampton.

    That's really a riddle! If these data from you are pointing out are correct (and they are consistent with the vessel log of Thamesport), the Stuttgart Express navigated past Southampton at nearly full speed, just below 20 knots, on September 4. Interpolation of the missing data points for that afternoon doesn't leave much options.

    And now, on the way back to Halifax, she has just passed Southampton again. Interestingly, there are again a few intermediate data points missing on the track. What have they been doing?

    Exchanging containers between ships at full speed in the middle of the busy English Channel would be quite a stunt, and maybe rise suspicion among customs and security authorities ;-)

    Perhaps the ship was, right fron the start, not the Stuttgart Express? Unfortunately, data from about Southampton harbour and the online records of the Southampton port authorities do not reach back to September 4... too bad ;-).

    Cheers, Stefan


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