Shipspotters all over the world => Help and Advice => Topic started by: connarboy on August 29, 2011, 07:55:34 pm

Title: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: connarboy on August 29, 2011, 07:55:34 pm

I have just started Ship Spotting after being "infected" by a Railway enthusiast friend, who showed me copies of the four Ship Spotting books he has just obtained, which between them list over 23,000 ships that could be seen in Europe.
I have seen several books advertised that contain lots of vessel details and their workings, and superb photos, but naturally some are quite expensive!
The above mentioned books don`t have lots of photos, but I can see that there are many quite superb photos on this forum already!

I have been reading other forums and online book shops, and have been trying to find out if there are any other spotting books that can be used to mark up the ships that I see.
The above books seem to suit my purpose, but I gather from the publisher`s website ( that they are quite new.
Is anyone else using them yet? If so would you care to comment on their suitability please?

Also, as I really like spotting Cargo ships and Tankers, can anyone advise where to go in the UK to watch them? (preferably not docks as I know from my Railway enthusiast friend that "spotters" don`t appear to be too welcome in these places!

I look forward to any help anyone can give me.

Kind regards,


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: Jimmy Christie on August 30, 2011, 11:01:46 am
Hi Monte,

I think you need to consider ship spotting in a completely different way from train spotting.  Remember that, as a train spotter based in UK, the locomotives and other motive power that you can see will be limited to the fleets of the various UK train operating companies which represents a very finite number of possible "hits" - even allowing for the introduction of new stock into service.  But Britain is an island and ships can arrive here from pretty much anywhere in the world.  In order to "tick them off" in a publication you would therefore need a single publication (or a series of publications) that covered pretty much the entire planet's combined merchant fleet, and that's without even getting into naval vessels and other specialist stuff.

A better way to approach things is to forget the reference books and maintain a database of ships that you have seen.  As you are posting on this forum you clearly have access to computer equipment so you should be able to set something up that meets your requirements.  I use an Access database that I have built up myself but you could just as easily use an Excel spreadsheet if you're not happy around Access.  You can then record the ship's technical details, the date and location of sightings and so on and so forth.  There are several on-line sources that will give you details such as IMO Number, gross and deadweight tonnages, date of construction, builder, yard number, former names etc etc. 

Equasis is the main source - it's free but you have to register before you can use it. You can find it here:

Another good one is the Miramar Ship Index - especially good for vessels that are no longer in service.  It isn't free but the annual charge is not high.  You can find it here.

You can also find a huge amount of information about an individual ship on this site and on other enthusiasts' websites.

Without knowing where you are based I can't give you much info on where to go to photograph ships but you are right about the ports.  Not only are spotters not welcome there but most are entirely secure and you will simply not gain access.  But there are numerous spots around the coast where ship spotting and ship photography are possible.  Let me know where you are based and I'll see if I can help.


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: connarboy on August 30, 2011, 12:11:29 pm
Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for your info, yes I can use Excel ok, and it`s easy enough to log one`s sightings of planes, trains, ships or whatever. I`m sure that people doing this for ships will compile a huge database over time. As you say as an island we could get anything rolling up, but as the books I mentioned have 23,000 or more ships already listed, I thought it would be a good starting off point! I gather the books will be updated every year, with (presumably) more vessels as they come to light, so I was just wondering if there was anything that contained all known ships, however from your comment I assume such a book would need to be about a foot thick.....

I`m based in the North West Highlands of Scotland, right on tht coast, so I can at least spot the odd cargo ship amongst the CalMac ferries!


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: Jimmy Christie on August 30, 2011, 12:18:52 pm
Ah - so you're well away from my local stamping ground then.  Although I'm a Scottish "expat" I'm now based in Yorkshire so my main areas are The Tyne, The Tees and the Humber/Ouse/Trent ports.  I would have thought you would be ok for ferries up there but that just about exhausts my knowledge of the area from a ship spotting point of view - although I climbed extensively in the Western Highlands before I joined the army. 

I've seen some terrific photographic results from the Costa Clyde but I guess that's stretching the mileage a bit as well.


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: Phil English on August 30, 2011, 12:28:35 pm
Hi Monte,

Jimmy makes some very worthwhile points and I would echo his recommendations. One other thing to bear in mind is that the World's merchant fleet is constantly changing. I'm not a train buff, but I can imagine that once a loco is in service, nothing much happens to it until it is retired or scrapped. With ships, it is monumnentally different. It's not unusual for ships to have upwards of 10-20 names, flags, owners or operators during it's lifetime. We are also well into one of the largest influxes of newbuilding deliveries seen for many years and, at the same time, older less efficient ships and those not meeting current regulatory issues are being recycled. I'm not familiar with the books that you mention. However, one thing is certain, they will be out of date as soon as you get them.

As for places to 'spot' ships, docks are usually out of bounds as you say. But there are often public areas close by, or on river banks, sea walls etc where you can get good vantage points. I'm sure there will be plenty of people here willing to help should you have any specific location queries.


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: connarboy on August 31, 2011, 06:40:34 pm
Hi Phil,

Thanks for your info, I`ve already gathered ships can have many names during their existance, having said that railway locos & stock often end up in different guises etc as well. I take your point that the ship books will be out of date as soon as you get them, but I guess this will apply to any spotting type books for any forms of transport (and some other reference books too I imagine).
So I think I`ll go with the books as I like to record what I`ve seen, over time they should make an interesting record, and eventually they may have a nostalgic feeling associated with them (if I live long enough!)
When I intend visiting a specific area I`ll try google earth and see if it shows any potential nice places to go, as you say someone on the forum will probably have already been there if the places I find are any good!


Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: BobS on August 31, 2011, 09:22:14 pm
As to finding out the best place to spot ships, I am sure that if you mention on this site the particular area you are heading for, there will be plenty of advice on the best vantage points.
If it is just spotting and logging ships you are interested in, the best place in the UK is probably up on the cliffs at Dover on a clear day, though powerful binoculars and access to AIS will useful, if not essential tools. And Dover's a long way away from where you are! 

Title: Re: Ship Spotting books and where to go
Post by: berdieboy on June 27, 2012, 09:29:34 am
Hi,with regard to the books from ST Publications,I find them useful giving IMO numbers, name and managers,obviously you will be able to build a database as time passes.As for places to spot,I joined The Yorkshire Ship Enthusiasts Society,and we use our collective knowledge to find the best places to see ships.Try contacting a local society for more info.Regards Bernie