Why our navy keeps running into commercial ships

Looking for an answer to the question “Why do we have a Navy instead of spending the money on a bigger Air Force?” I read Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans.

Sadly, the book doesn’t answer my question. Plainly it is bad to have container ships being sunk by pirates or enemy nations, but why can’t they protect themselves with drones that are based on the container ships themselves? Or, rather than spend $ 5-10 billion on a ship that will be a sitting duck for a drone missile or submarine, why wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to protect shipping with land-based airplanes, such as the AC-130? The author simply assumes that it is good to spend trillions of dollars on a navy.

But maybe the book does explain the two recent collisions between our multi-billion dollar ships and generic cargo vessels:

By reading through a variety of sources (including Clarksons, the “bible” of international shipping), it is possible to estimate that there are between fifty and sixty thousand large commercial ships— bulk carriers, cargo ships, tankers, container ships, chemical ships, passenger and roll-on/ roll-off ships, and liquefied natural gas tankers active throughout the world. … What I felt over the forty years of my career was the way the oceans became more and more full; by some estimates there are four to six times more ships plying the world’s oceans than there were some thirty years ago. If you look at a map of the world from space with the high-density shipping lanes marked in red, orange, and yellow, the strategic highways and choke points are quite clear— red belts through the South China Sea, the Mediterranean, clusters around the Suez and Panama canals, long strips around the bottom of Africa, arrows of red in and out of the Arabian Gulf and through the Strait of Malacca. It is a vast and busy universe in which tens of thousands of vessels of all descriptions are under way at any given moment.

If we are going to invest in these crazy expensive ships do we need to have a peacetime mode where they fully participate in the anti-collision transponder system that is used by commercial ships? Military trucks when they’re out on America’s clogged Interstates don’t operate under different rules from all of the other drivers.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Me on TV: Diverted commercial flight after the death of one pilot

I was interviewed by WCVB, Boston’s ABC station, about a commercial airline flight on which one of the pilots died en route. Here’s the clip from October 5, 11 o’clock news. (Of course they captured about 30 minutes of tape in which I coherently explained the roles of the captain and first officer in normal operations, the crew concept of flying, the practice of trading “pilot flying” and “pilot monitoring” roles after each leg. Nearly all of that was left on the cutting room floor in favor of a passenger reviewing the remaining pilot’s performance.)

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Commercial birthday parties considered harmful to children?

About half of the kid birthday parties to which we’ve been invited lately are what might be called “credit card parties” in which a parent gives a credit card to an indoor gym that provides an hour of bouncy fun followed by plain cheese pizza and a nut-free cake served by minimum-wage 19-year-olds.

One of my childhood memories was watching our parents go out at least once a week to a neighbor’s house for a dinner or cocktail party. Virtually every family in the neighborhood was capable of cleaning up the house, putting some frozen pigs-in-blankets into the oven, and pouring out some wine.  Today’s young adults don’t seem to be as capable as hosts as were the 30-somethings of the 1970s.  I’m wondering if the next generation of adults will be even worse because they never got the idea that it is okay to spend more than 60 seconds of effort to host a group of friends.

What do readers think? And what about those of you with kids? Are the kids more or less enthusiastic about going to one of these commercial events compared to going to an artisanally organized party at another child’s home?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog