Tuesday, March 3, 2009


My goodness, a barge being pushed has the weirdest motion. We're rolling slightly, I guess, but it's coming across as more of a swaying motion. Absolutely right awkward, but quite comfortable.

Anyhow, at 0300, with the wind and seas falling nicely, we headed out on our next leg; in order to minimize flying spray and thus heavy icing, we had to wait out the weather a little. This is wholly a good thing, as it would otherwise require a considerable amount of time and effort with ice axes to free up the gear necessary to move cargo, and NOTHING pisses off dockmen more than an unprepared deck. They get downright cranky when things don't pan out.
Anyhow, I got to work out the discharge plan for this cargo, which will be split between two docks. What I find interesting is that we have to discharge in reverse order from what I'm used to. On an oil tanker, you completely discharge as many tanks as you can, and then you finish up in one set of tanks, drawing them down to a cargo height that gives you the proper amount. This way, you only have to really work with the ullage tapes (sort of like tape measures that tell you how many feet and inches of cargo are in the tank) one time, and minimize the number of tanks that have partial loads of cargo sloshing around in them, which can REALLY fuck with stability.

On a barge, however, every tank doesn't have it's own pump- rather, there are two pumps located on deck, which means that maintaining suction is an issue. SO, what we have to do is to pre-figure all of our volumes, accounting for temperature and density of the cargo (which will make the cargo expand or contract), draw down one set of tanks using the tapes to get a specific partial volume out of the tank, and THEN run some tanks dry. In a way, this is cool, because the action that requires intense scrutiny happens at two different times- the cargo stops happen early, and then the stripping of the last drops of cargo out of the tanks at the end. Hopefully this will keep things interesting.


whaaaat said...

Paul, would you be able to share some advantages and disadvantages of being a merchant mariner? I'm considering a move to MSC over the Coast Guard or Navy, and would like to soak up any and all information before hand. If your able to, I really appreciate it. THANKS!

paul the pirate (Yar!) said...

Pay, longevity, opportunities for advancement, purchase power, freedom... all favor the merchant marines. To be fair, MSC is halfway between the navy and a true civilian ship, but you can build up experience and days-at-sea for advancement with MSC relatively quickly. A warning, though: MSC goes to some great places, but it's harder to get home at the end of your time, and it's harder to have free time- you don't get the long vacations associated with civilian shipping. Plus, it's a lot harder to have a home life.

whaaaat said...

Thanks for getting back to me quickly, I appreciate it, It's a tough time here : / I have heard it's hard to get your replacement, especially if your a pumpman, but they pay OT after 8hrs so it seems your time is valued, and paid for. I'm still a young buck, no real family aside from my own, and (my family) they're okay with me playing on a boat for extended periods of time. All and all this is for a career, experience, and maybe some travel in between.

Thanks for answering my question, and happy sails on your barge!

tugsri said...

Welcome to the fickle world of barge work, where things can change half way through a load or discharge. And people wonder why the price of petroleum products are so High!