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Jan 21 - Feb 5, 2012


For two weeks in the winter of 2012, Germander was stationed in a converted shipping container on the Town Quay at Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey, Kent, using it as the base for a local ship-spotting and boat-noting project.


Germander and participants collected sightings of vessels of all scales and purposes - from tenders, yachts and rowing gigs to fishing boats, dredgers, tankers, bulk carriers and container ships, all either in Queenborough Creek or visible in, or from, the Harbour.  


These sightings were recorded on a chart covering one whole wall, which was updated daily with the vessels' subsequent movements, using marine tracking websites to follow their local, national and international journeys. A cumulative picture was created of the fascinating activity and links from this deceptively quiet harbour.

Me at door of Room 2

Local people and visitors helped to report vessel sightings, track vessel movements, brought maps and documents, and contributed lots of fascinating information about local boats, industries and place names and the activity of the Creek and Harbour.


The information collected in this project was used by Germander to create a word piece highlighting the innate poetry of the Harbour and how the shipping seen from here spreads out to connect with the rest of the world.  


-  Click here to read the final piece


-  Click here to hear an interview and reading of the piece on BR FM's Arts Show


-  Click here to see photos from the project


-  Click here to see photos from the final event on ROOM's blog


-  Click here for photos of quirky and scenic Queenborough


-  And scroll further down this page to read about our findings from the shiptracking


This project was funded and supported by Art at the Centre, Swale Borough Council, and used ROOM, the mobile art space created from a shipping container.  ROOM travelled around to different sites in Swale, hosting projects by different artists.  

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. The above map, updated during the project, shows how all the ships' journeys had spread out around the world within just a few weeks of having been seen from Queenborough.  The following is what we discovered 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 six of them went through the Suez Canal and not all were found back - however one was later seen stopping at Sri Lanka, and three others were 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 three car-carriers we followed, two 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.  And while the container ships have long-term scheduled journeys, you can never tell where these smaller bulk carriers 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.

Shiptracking map
Ever Smart seen leaving from Sheerness seafront

Above: the Ever Smart, originally spotted at Thamesport, is here seen heading into the North Sea from Sheerness seafront, later to call at Piraeus, Greece, before passing through the Suez Canal and crossing the Indian Ocean and travelling via the South China Sea to return to Taiwan.   Photo: Germander Speedwell

Al Aamriya

Above: the Al Aamriya, one of the liquefied natural gas tankers seen unloading at the Grain LNG terminal; we later tracked it to the Persian Gulf and saw it docking at Qatar.   Photo: Phil Hogg

Sheerness newspaper article on Shipping News

Above: article in Sheerness Times Guardian, Feb 29 2012

Germander Speedwell 

The Shipping News Room

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