So, what happened to all those ships?
We followed dozens of commercial vessels during the project and beyond - for up to a month, to allow time for them to reach their further destinations. This is what we found happened to the different types of ships we tracked:
The Liquefied Natural Gas tankers:
We saw two liquefied natural gas tankers at the Isle of Grain LNG terminal over the fortnight, followed them as far as the Suez Canal, and later found them back again - in the Persian Gulf, docking at the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The Container ships seen at Thamesport:
One of them went to West Africa; three of them crossed the Atlantic and stopped at Veracruz in Mexico and ports in the south-eastern USA such as Houston, Charleston, Miami, New Orleans etc ; about 6 of them went through the Suez Canal and not all were found back - however one was later seen stopping at Sri Lanka, and 3 others re-located when at ports in the Far East - Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Aviation Fuel Tanker at Grain Jetty:
This tanker, which delivered aircraft fuel (which gets conveyed by pipelines to airports), was seen to go directly to Ventspils, Latvia.
Car-Carriers at Sheerness Car Export Terminal:
Most of these large ro-ro vessels carry second-hand cars which have been bought in the UK and Western Europe for export to the Third World - in particular Africa, and are exported by individuals for their own use or re-sale there. Of the 3 car-carriers we followed, 2 of them went to Africa, stopping at Madagascar, Tanzania, Ghana, etc. The other one made stops at Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and St Petersburg, making this same journey twice over a few weeks.
Bulk carriers at Ridham Dock and Grovehurst Jetty:
Pleasingly, the most interesting and varied journeys were actually made by the smaller bulk carriers that come directly past Queenborough as they go up the Swale to Ridham Dock and Grovehurst Jetty. Because they are smaller and tend to carry one sort of cargo at a time, they travel into lochs, fjords, rivers, ship canals, and small local wharves, and because these places often deal with only one product, e.g. gravel, paper pulp, steel recycling, etc, you can often work out what they’re carrying. Unlike the container ships which have long-term scheduled journeys, so you never know where these ones are going next. Their main destinations were the Northern European ports (Belguim, the Netherlands and Germany), Scandinavia, Scotland, Spain and Portugal, but their stops were as varied as Teignmouth, Kings Lynn, Barking Creek, Swansea, the Western Highlands and Casablanca.
This map, updated during the project, shows how all the ships' journeys had spread out around the world within a few weeks of having been seen from Queenborough: