If you live on an island, you start to appreciate how important the sea links to other countries are to the local economy. You also tend to take these things for granted, however, when the weather is bad, and the sea routes are inaccessible, well, you notice.
The Isle of Man takes great care to protect it’s farming community for this very reason. When the ship doesn’t sail, there are no fresh sandwiches at M&S, no vegetables at Tesco; however milk, bread and Manx vegetables are all still available from other retailers. This comes at a price however, as the import restrictions on certain items (fresh beef for example) means that the consumer has to pay a higher price, albeit for a fresher, local item.
The thing I didn’t realise is that cargo and passenger ships are monitored all the time they are at sea. As part of the global maritime safety system, ships over 300 tons are now required to broadcast their positions using AIS. This information is available to anyone who is interested in capturing it. I came across this site today that shows a real-time view of the ships at sail (and at berth) in the Irish Se. It’s a great way to watch the ships come and go, and somehow I now feel more secure travelling by sea, knowing someone is watching. Check it out