Wednesday, April 13, 2016

welcome to erf

The last two container ships I ran fuel to were visiting the US for the first time.

 The first one was a real shit show because they had a non-standard size fuel connection for their diesel fill, so the 250 tons of diesel they wanted wasn't so easy to get to them. "It's metric" they said. We have metric fittings available for those savages that insist on them. That's OK. I'm fairly sure some recent graduate from the U of Karachi (The Yale of Pakistan!) Vo-tech and BBQ Chef School bolted an international shore connection on the diesel manifold. Which would be great if we were using fire hoses to transfer fuel.

 Well, we fixed that and everyone went home, if not happy, than fueled and paid, anyhow .

       Today's fueling went fine. It was everything else that was a mess. The Chief engineer, a jolly Russian (really. They do exist. Rare and treasured like a Fabergé egg) told me that it was their first time here. I said the usual spiel "We don't cheat, and we don't steal, and we don't like to fight," which he told me he already had been told by coworkers who had taken on fuel here.

 The 3rd assistant engineer, a Pakistani gentleman,  was slow to get paperwork to and from the engineer's desk, but we got there eventually. Afterwards, we ran into a brick wall.

      The US is INSANE when it comes to the idea of putting oil in the water. Something about some young kid crashing into Alaska 25 years ago, and the captain taking it in the seat, after.

 As it happens, I hate oil on my deck, because it leads to oil in the water when it rains, which leads to wailing, gnashing of teeth and the coast guard getting all soggy and hard to light. We make a practice of cleaning up any oil on deck, and trying to keep it in the tanks instead.

      So, after we finish, when the 3rd engineer finally gets around to rounding up some lower-caste sailors to disconnect my fueling hose from his ship,  I kick our hydraulics on, and swing the cargo crane next to the hose, where it can be connected and used to bring it back aboard. Meanwhile, the crewmen are unbolting the 8 bolts from the connection, and rebolting the round blank at the end of my hose so it won't leak oil. Heavy fuel oil is thick and dense, and cools rapidly when there's a thin skin of it on the inside of an empty hose. That shit will drip for hours if not blanked off. A well-emptied hose, say 60-feet, held up and left opened, will drip another couple gallons of fuel over the next hour or two.
        So, the guys are 20 feet or so over my head, up on their lifeboat deck, and after an unusually short amount of time, the engineer waves to me to take the hose back on board.

 Too fast. No one, not even me, can bolt down a hose blank in 2 minutes. It takes me 4-5, and ship's crew 10-15, so something's up, and as soon as I swing the hose end to where I can see it, I see the problem, and immediately swing the hose back in the crew's faces. This is significant because the blank and hose flange weighs a lot. 100+lbs in the first 4 foot of that hose.
 I'm not yelling yet. I tell them that there are 4 bolts, not 8, in the flange, and they need to install the other 4. I can no longer see the hose end, but the engineer says that he was going to send the bolts down to me.
      Without being pedantic in the details, I told the guys, still sort of calmly, that this is not the 3rd world, (where you are from, and where lazy, slothful work is acceptable, was the unspoken but obviously received dig), and oil will not be allowed on my deck or to leak from the hose, so they need to use all 8 bolts, and those bolts will be properly tightened.
       I listen to the clinks of metal on metal as a ratchet turns, and a few minutes later, still fast for East Indies sailors, the 3rd assistant engineer motions me again to take the hose. I swing the boom until I can see the end of the hose- the 8 bolts are there, and none of them are tight. A little patter of black droplets are falling down as oil rains out of the hose, and I again, whip the end of the hose directly into their teeth again.
   This time I am not so pleasant and my voice is not so modulated. I was arrogant before, maybe, but now the asshole is arrived and in fine form. I damn them, I call them unprofessional low-end fools who aren't even civilized enough to know how to operate hand tools, and point directly at the 3rd assistant engineer, say "You!" and ask him if he knows what will happen if one drop of oil went in the water. I tell him that if my bolts are not properly tightened in the approved star-pattern (like lug nuts in a car rim) to make a sure seal, I will report the ship, and him, specifically, to the US Coast Guard and refuse to sail until they are aboard to witness the quality of his work. I then look for the oil that went on deck, and tell them to get somebody to wipe up the 4 droplets of oil on my deck in the next 2 minutes.  It gets done.
     The hose comes back, bolts appropriately tightened, a few minutes later and I swing the hose over. A cargo surveyor takes our paperwork up to the ship for signatures, and all goes well.
 But the paperwork usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get run by the chief engineer and surveyor for signatures and stamps, and I wait 90 minutes.
 That 3rd assistant got his revenge. He was the go-between between the surveyor and the chief engineer (Note to self. Describing the effect of caste and class among East Indian mariners on the chain of command would make an awesome post.).  He dragged his feet. For an hour and a half. Fuck.

     That's a good lesson for me right there. It felt nice to speak my mind about the inferior work those men performed. I probably should have shared it with my people, not theirs.


1 comment:

Will said...

Perhaps if you video record this sort of thing, and send copies to all relevant parties, it may reduce the problem significantly in the future. If shit work gets thrown in the face of the managers that oversee the various layers of workers involved, along with the potential costs to them, future interactions may be different. Copies to the CG may be indicated for maximum effectiveness.

Nothing like seeing it in living color to cut through the typical defensive bullshit.

Well, one would hope.