I know that I'm evolving in to a curmudgeon. I accept this. I haven't started shuffling yet, or kicking kids off my lawn, but give me time.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the necessity and desirability of being fairly meticulous in maintaining good oil samples and chain-of-custody procedures every time there's a transfer of oil on the water. You can check it out here. Bearing in mind that I write mostly tongue-in-cheek, I try not to be too pedantic about a very pedantic process. If I were writing a technical manual, it'd be different. This blog is also my practice slate for creative writing, God help us, which I do here and there.
So, in following with the prior post on the benefits of giving a flying fornicato about what is, ultimately the last line of defense against getting one's ass handed to oneself in the bunker trade, We here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ and Hot Dog Safari got a nastygram sent from the Home Office, reminding us, timely enough, that not adhering to procedures is a Bad Thing and Not Liked At All. Another nastygram sent out more recently, said something similar as a reminder to do other paperwork properly.
I'm looking for my toldya face. My alter ego, Nostradumbass, saw it coming.
Without going into the internals of my employer's handling of this sort of thing (ain't my business; I universally deal with it it by trying not to need handling), this sort of feeds back to a question as to why the hell anyone, especially anyone with a family, would want to get on the radar by not working with a CYA mentality?
There are few universals when it comes to filling out paperwork in bunkering. Even chain-of-custody forms vary across charterers, although they are often similar. The HQ generally works with 6 charterers, some of whom have special procedures that vary from their own SOP in dealing with particular shipowners. Knowing and keeping track of the details of a million little things is important. Innocuous stuff, like whether I am supposed to type in sample seal numbers on an official document, or have a 3rd party write them in on a reciept after I print it, that sort of thing. It varies, and companies get very soggy and hard to light if their liability is increased because I was not aware of their often counterintuitive wants. It pays not to forget. Well, more accurately, SOMEONE pays if you forget.
Of the few universal documents that we have, the one that every vessel in some form has is called a Declaration of Inspection (or some variant thereof). Often, both parties will have their own DOI's, and before a transfer starts, we will exchange information in a Pre-Transfer Conference (again with the capitals), whether formal or informal, and fill out each other's documents.
It is NOT legal in the US to transfer oil across the water in commercial quantities without a DOI. Not Legal as in 'please fine me personally, US Coast Guard, if you ever find out I didn't fill out a DOI.'
I'm not kidding, the Coast Toasties are really dicks if you don't have this particular paper shield filled out just so.
Without getting into the particulars, a DOI is a checklist of things you swear under penalty of law that you did prior to starting the transfer. It requires signatures and bona fides of both parties to be valid. Signatures, initials, etc. It's a discoverable document that might as well be a neon sign if you skim or skip a step, to ensure corner-cutting is kept down and safe transfer is probable.
There are people whose job it is to make sure that your paperwork in the past was done correctly, so that you and your employer know that you're fucking up before anyone else does. Vetters are welcomed with the enthusiasm of a rectal exam, and like a rectal exam, they're a necessary evil, another check against slacking standards and the early links in an error chain.
I describe my job to some folks as being a cat herder. I try to keep a million little details just so, put together as needed, where needed, in a constant effort to do an adequate job under less-than-idyllic conditions... and conditions are always less-than-idyllic. Delays, language gaps, mistakes, distractions, etc- on my side and also on the other side, too. I bunker for my supper, whereas ship's engineers bunker once a month or so, so it makes sense that I'm faster and more efficient at it, plus the HQ is purpose-built, whereas bunker stations on ships are designed on the fly, and often badly. The most annoying and one of the more important parts of my job is to ensure that the not-always-very-conversant-in-English engineers I'm working with know what's going on, are doing their part, and know the particulars. Bunkering being what it is, an annoying afterthought for engineers who are chronically sleep-deprived during port calls, they'll often sign anything. I could send up a form requiring they transfer custody to me of their immortal soul and any virgin daughters, and most of them will sign it. "Spik Inglich, yis yis." Guys like that have to be protected from themselves, and, more important, I have to protect myself from their ignorance by trying to kill it where it lives.
I try not to be pedantic here, but at work? I ask the same question in different forms 3 times to be sure that I'm understood.
"Chief, you understand that you need to tell me 10 minutes before you need me to stop, yes? No last minute stops, except for emergencies, OK?"
"OK, Chief. If you need to stop, how many minutes' warning will you give me? At least 10, yes?
"Yis Yis, ten."
"Thank you chief. We'll be standing by for your call to stop when you need us. Call us 10 minutes before, so we are prepared to stop."
Sort of like that. Doing that without being a dick is a challenge. Bunkering is not a trade for socially adept people, which is one of the many reasons I hate having strangers work for me. Many people are abusive or just outright fucking retarded, bowling over people who barely speak English by being domineering and rude, which costs us time and safety. I've blown the hard hat off of a couple of people's heads with a flying monkey fist at night and rung their bell when they were being rude, back when I was an AB on a tanker. I have no desire to have that done to me.
But that's another subject in itself.
40 minutes ago