Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wanted: giant rubber ass


It's been 24 hours since we nudged up alongside this Russian POS breakfulk freighter. There isn't a single engineering officer who speaks English, which has been a nightmare- trying to bunker a ship via the translation efforts of the one English-speaker on board, an Ordinary Seaman with the attention span of a parakeet "Yis yis, you start pump now and we, Look! Something shiny!..."

Anyhow, while under normal circumstances, I can reasonably expect to transfer fuel safely and operate in the safe zone and be protected via due diligence and strict adhesion to the agreement and declarations that we sign before the pumps kick on, in this case, I couldn't help but notice that after I sent up the paperwork to the ship, everyone disappeared.
For an hour I attempted to contact the ship via VHF, hand signals, ships' horn, screaming, throwing nuts and bolts at the wheelhouse, calling the agent and holding a seance. Just as I was pulling out a Ouija board, a plastic bag and a can of ether, the US Coast Guard showed up.

Turns out the CG was out getting subs or something, and noticed the hideous-looking ship. They then proceeded to find a host of problems on board, which explains certainly why I was being ignored- the engineering department was certainly being butthurt yesterday, and on a Flag-Of-Convenience shitheap mostly made of Red Hand and rustcicles, well past its' service life, I can imagine that being a chief is not a fun job.
So we got to wait 10 hours before we started bunkering. By then, I had been relieved, had lunch and a 2 hours' nap, and was ready to start pumping.
Then the fun really started. The deckhand/translator told me that I had to pump 80.83 cubic meters of diesel, stop pumping, then pump the remainder when asked, and then there would be 5 stops for the black oil portion of the job.
I explained, carefully as I could, that we don't use cubic meters as a unit of volume, and that it wasn't a good idea to forego sounding and topping off one's tanks in lieu of passing the buck to a guy on another vessel. I think my exact words were something along the lines of "Jesus, please, let's try to be more professional than that!"
Now, if, for whatever reason, the chief engineer really wanted to just fill one tank at a time and list the ship all around in the process, more power to him- it's his ship, and I don't take topping tanks at all lightly, myself. I'm willing to make stops in the job in order to help the engineer do his job safely... BUT, when someone is making me responsible for doing his job, and compromising safety, and already has a visible streak of ass in his disposition... no.
I was then cussed at in Russian, I believe. We then started pumping cargo with the pump engine at idle. This most certainly gave the engineer time to sound his tanks, as I'm pretty sure I could have filled that tank up faster by drinking a case of beer and peeing into the sounding tube.
Fast forward 6 hours. The engineer has definitely been filling the ships' bunker tanks one at a time, judging by the visible list and trim of the ship, which is leaned over like a drunk at a urinal- and down by the stern quite heavily.
With only 4o tons of oil left in my last tank, the engineer pantomimes for me to shut down. Problem: with only a sloppy calf-height level of oil in the tank, the chances of shutting down and losing the prime on the pump are excellent. I tell my translator this. He tells me that the ship's tanks are full, and we only have 'a little time.' I inform them that if I lose the prime on the pump under these circumstances, that the shipowner is going to be paying for me to return the remaining oil back to the refiner. The engineer actually JUMPS UP AND DOWN while screaming. Dude had a tantrum. He didn't threaten to hold his breath on me, but I could see that happening. He then pointed fingers at the translator and waved about... either cussed him out, too, or told him to steal third, I'm not sure which. The translator held his hands up in the universal 'what can I do?' gesture and told me to shut down.

While I shut down and tried to swing valves to preserve the prime on the pump, the engineer and his boy disappeared. Again. Another hour, I was relieved, again, and made my phone calls to the office, passed the watch, and passed out.
When 5am rolled about, just a little while ago, I wasn't surprised to see that we were still alongside the ship, and that the hose was still connected between my barge and the ship. Apparently the engineer went to bed, as my 2nd man got fussed at for spotting a mate on deck and sending him to wake up the chief for a powwow vis a vis walking the fuck off a job.
At this point, a bright and sunny day is not raising my spirits much. Apparently the engineer believes that he can load the bow down with cargo and that this will make enough of a difference in his tanks to take on the additional cargo. Now, I haven't been invited to take a look at his strapping charts, but I'm pretty sure that a pretty decent list and trim isn't going to make a 40+ ton wedge in the tanks that can be remedied by selectively loading cargo. Not in a 400-foot ship, anyhow. I could be wrong, of course. I certainly would have expected the mates to ballast the ship, rather than load her funny, but that's just me. There's probably either no working ballast pump, or equally likely, the ship could be running on her tank tops, with the ballast spaces breached to the sea. In a shitbox like this, anything is possible. Especially tetanus.
So that's where I am, as day 2 dawns. I'm here for another week, so it's no skin off my ass for me to stay here, but, being fairly diligent, I hope, I hate seeing my barge tied up for a case of assbaggery.

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