Friday, March 31, 2017

Eat the poop cake.

Well, another year passes. We bunkered the EMPIRE STATE for their spring cruise.



 The Empire State is the NY maritime academy's training ship. It's a well-preserved dinosaur from the golden era of US shipping, but make no mistake, this ship is elderly, and it's about to have a couple hundred 20-ish year old maritime students on board for a couple of months as they cruise to South America or Europe, make some port calls and learn how to drive a boat.

 I could write for a while on what the hell these poor pricks are going to do when they graduate, as there is already massive competition for unlimited-tonnage jobs on American ships- SUNY sends out some absolutely excellent grads, but the jobs are currently in tugboats and limited-tonnage work, mostly brown-water stuff, and they don't offer much in the way of it.

 My employer regularly recruits some grads each year. They have to spend a couple of years as Able-Bodied seamen on our tugs,  to learn how to do what we do, rather than sitting on a bridge spilling coffee for the watch AB to mop up in the dark, but they do make good towing officers once they learn what it is to work a workboat through experience.

 Well, at any rate, we bunkered the Empire state earlier this week, and as always, it was a bear.

 With a house mounted in the middle of the ship, and the heavy fuel manifold mounted at the base of the house on the weather deck, it's actually not a bad spot for us to moor up to them alongside- old ships have round, seakindly hulls, and not much parallel midbody, so they can be tough to safely come alongside and transfer fuel.

 The problem with the Empire State is the damn diesel oil. When the ship was built, they didn't NEED much diesel as they use today, as they didn't have environmental regulations delimiting fuel specifications, and they certainly didn't have Environmental Control Areas . To get diesel into their diesel tank, we have to connect to a fitting in a machinery space, directly over the tank, which is in the stern of the ship in the double bottoms, I believe. At any rate, our 100-foot diesel hose is nowhere near enough. We have to load two extra100-foot diesel hoses on board, connect them to my diesel hose and use the crane to send 40-foot bights of hose to the edge of their deck and 10-20 young kids will drag it bodily from the edge of the deck to the stern of the ship a couple hundred feet away from my own diesel manifold. We barely make it, and always, ALWAYS the last hose, my own hose for regualr service,  gets dented slightly, cutting its' service life shorter. I have never had a diesel hose reach replacement age (5 years), btb. 

   With so many students dedicated to marine engineering, they need to take part in bunkering too, so the engineer stations kids over each tank on the ship. In the era when ships like this were used, they had a LOT of small tanks to keep the ship in trim. at 50ish years old, the Empire State is elderly, and they're afraid to put much pressure on the fuel lines... or the students I suppose, so we have to pump the fuel with just one of my pump engines running only at idle speed- about 150 tons per hour, as we transfer 1500 tons of heavy fuel and 300 or so tons of diesel to them too. A smaller job by today's standards. 

 I was planning on taking plenty of pictures, but this year, along with constantly dealing with the engineer, who micromanages the fuel transfer, and the couple of hours it takes to connect the fuel hoses, we had heavy rain and some wind. It was just a shitty day. 

... and that's the problem. We do a pretty good job, and worse, all of us on here get along great with the chief engineer and the captain of the ship, who also always comes down to visit us for a bit and stretch his legs. They're great guys. I suppose they'd have to be, to deal with a couple hundred college kids in a tiny space and keep the right balance between discipline and teaching. 
      ... from my company's end, they use us, me, specifically, 75% of the time for this job. We do it OK, I guess, but it beats the hell out of us and causes a mess. We will take the poop cake and deliver it, perhaps with some mild bitching, but without having a tantrum over it, which has happened with other crews. No one likes delivering this particular poop cake.  I've got 200 extra feet of hose with no home, and disconnecting it makes a mess, plus there's no home for it, so it's coiled down and placed in the only spot where it won't get damaged, which is right in one of our walkways, so we get to trip over them for a week or two until someone sends a tug alongside to take them away. 
 It turns into a 16-20 hour day for us, and there's no avoiding it. 

 Oh, the ship uses a grade of fuel that no one stocks anymore, RME-180, so we make our own by blending RMG-380, standard heavy fuel oil, with ultra-low sulphur diesel. We blend it in our tanks by loading the diesel right on top of the heavy fuel oil (the proportions are calculated for us, and we adjust volumes by hand, using pen, paper and calculator, depending on the density and temperature of each product, in order to give us a known final volume and density. Sounds complicated, it's not really, but it is risky. If we fuck up,we own the fuel. No one will take back blended fuel, and the ship won't take improperly blended fuel. End result is that with our calculations, we have to run and squirt volumes of diesel, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, between our already semi-full fuel tanks. It's done at a jogging pace and with numbers and info relayed back and forth. I can do it by myself on deck, and like to, but this particular hull that is the current HQ is old school- laid out for simplicity and functionality, and I know how she likes to naturally feed some tanks faster than others, and can pinch down some tanks just so, so that no tanks finish up at the same time. 
 Oh, and this time, after the diesel cut, we had an additional heavy fuel oil cut to also blend into all the tanks on top of the diesel, to flushout the diesel in the terminal's pipeline, which normally carries just heavy fuel, plus a little extra to be sure the diesel is gone. So, proportioning that is another layer on the poop cake. In the rain. Uphill both ways. 
     Well, end result is that it was successful, and while we may have rode bitch on this job, we made money for daddy. 
Pictured: how I viewed the ops people who assign me the poop cake. 


 Every. Damn. Time. 

1 comment:

John said...

When you mix oils, will they separate out over time? Or if they do is the time needed for them to separate too long to matter?