Sunday, February 1, 2015

You hear things...

When scrolling through online posts from mariners going back and forth talking about jobs, headaches, people and the business, sometimes I bristle at how absolutely foul and vitriolic the opinions can get as to tugboaters' opinions on tankermen in general.

 It's a matter of differing goals and a bar that is set at two different heights. Personally, I find tugboaters to vary widely in terms of skill and personality. My employer has a low number of real assholes in their tugs' wheelhouses, which is something to be admired... there's a certain dearth of very good boathandlers, as well, though, as shipping in general is a business where skill counts far more than people skills. Plenty of d-bags are great boat handlers. So long as it doesn't drive too many folks away from crewing a vessel, companies don't care that a boathandler is a failure as a human being. So long as everyone goes home safe, that's not necessarily a terrible thing.

       I got a pretty stark reminder of just why tankermen have a varied reputation during a conversation yesterday. There are a lot of prospective tankermen who are looking to get their foot in the door simply because it looks like less work than other jobs, and it pays relatively well... which was another point I saw in some BBS posts- complaints of tankermen being overpaid. Well, there's no explaining the basic rules of economics to someone with an inflated view of their own value. The market pays what it does for a reason, so I simply skim on, and note that there's some damn petty people out there. Why do I give a good goddamn what other people make? It's motivation to move into another position, if I'm jealous. Hell, if tugboating paid twice what I make and came with some qualitative improvements to my life, I'd shift over that way and be a tugboater. It doesn't, and I don't want to.

 But, yeah, there's some real bums out there for tankermen... something I'm aware of, of course, but something I don't see normally, as I'm focused on the dirtiest, most complex and miserable of the non-niche oil markets. I do bunker work, carrying fuel to ships... sort of the Swiss Army Knife of oil tanking jobs, and it's more labor and risk-intensive than other forms of oil carriage, so there aren't a lot of bums out there, at least in my company. In our core NY bunker group, there's 8-9 really good guys, twice that in competent and marginally competent guys, and a number of short bus seat warmers who can sign a Declaration of Inspection and must be watched over, the kinds of folks who can do a job for 20 years and still not know how to do it well.
   Being a company whore, I get to meet a lot of folks. I got put in an oddball place for me, this week. I'm on a 50,000bbl black oil barge which is chartered to an oil major, which means that we have a dedicated tugboat that is always nearby, and the workload is nowhere near as brutal as I'm used to. The barge itself is awkward for me to operate, but the other guy on here is nice, knows his job and is particular about it, a quality I appreciate greatly.
 Anyhow, I've got 5 more watches to stand, maybe part of a 6th, and I can go home. It's the dead of winter back in Heaven's Waiting Room, so it's only in the mid-70's every day. Only. I was outside a little while ago and it was 9 degrees.

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