Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Short Volume Kabuki

Well, this has been an interesting night.

    Started off pretty good. I'm on night watch tonight, which means my day started at 2320, yesterday, and I'll go to bed after civilized humans start on breakfast. No problem. It's my turn in the rotation here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ tanning emporium. We're morning people on here; working nights isn't a favorite, so we switch off.  Tonight's my night, and wonder of wonders, it's the first night where I stepped outside before watch for my inspection, and had to put my coveralls on all the way. Generally, until I sign the DOI (Declaration of Inspection, the checklist that says you're in charge and everything's peachy keen), my coveralls are being worn as pants and the upper body part is tied off at the waist. Tonight I went outside and suited up a few seconds later. Between the temperature and the delightful breeze, it's been a lovely night.

      Tonight we were transferring fuel to a car carrier, a RORO, PCTC, whatever you want to call it. Car ship, and it was their first visit to the US. Like 99% of the ships we deal with, this was a foreign-flagged ship,

       At any rate, tonight we pumped 1,300 tons of fuel oil and 170 tons of diesel to this car ship, and, the engineer not being a regular visitor to the US, but being Japanese, he was obligated to perform the Short Volume Kabuki.

 Now, you don't have to be Japanese to perform the Short Volume Kabuki- you just have to sail a lot in 3rd world countries. Everyone who's handled bunkers outside the US has likely done it. It's formulaic.

 In much of the world, when bunkers are transferred to the ship, someone's going to try to cheat. Often enough, it's the bunker supplier. From ridiculous to subtle, there are a million scams to try to get free fuel and fuck over some strangers.  The most subtle trick is the Singapore Cappuccino, where unscrupulous bunker suppliers will aerate the fuel and increase it's apparent volume by trapping air bubbles in the oil, making a viscous foam. As the air eventually works its' way out of solution, the volume magically decreases, but by then the supplier is long gone.

 I've written on this stuff before so no need to rehash it too much, but the essence of Short Volume Kabuki is that no matter how much fuel you transfer to a ship, they're always short. What follows in the 3rd world is 'negotiations' where both sides try to come to an agreement on what is a reasonable amount for the thief to steal.

 This being America, it doesn't really work like that. It's just too much work to try to steal bunkers, and when delivered by barge, there's nowhere to go anyhow. Plus, a bunker thief will be caught and will be reamed by someone, and do time, whereas elsewhere, it's just part of how some folks make a paycheck.

 At any rate, after years of doing this, I try not to take it personal when someone's trying to sneak one up my Windward Passage without benefit of Ye Olde Reache Around, and I'm past the days of being scandalized and upset by it overmuch.  Under normal circumstances, the Engineer claims a shortage, the bunker supplier claims and overage, and they meet in the middle. Some days you win, some days no. Negotiations happen.

 Here, we calculate the volume and temperature of the oil, adjust the net figure for density, and arrive at a standard volume calculation before we leave the loading terminal. Most of the time, we have an independent cargo surveyor do the work with us as a disinterested party.
 On arrival at a ship, I do it all over again, and invite the ship to take part and observe. Sometimes they hire another independent surveyor of their own. Sometimes no. At any rate, we really like to have the ship at least come aboard and observe the volume measurements before and after we transfer fuel, to be sure there's no claims of tomfoolery. This helps. We also DO NOT NEGOTIATE. The volume is the volume, and is documented as such, and claims of an error are made through a formalized documentation system that ensures that should a volume disparity be grave enough, both sides can engage in legal mediation to discuss the matter and come up with a solution. This is thankfully far over my head, but I'm very fond of doing things the right way and keeping my ass from hanging in the breeze.

         So, once an engineer has unzipped and whipped out his street theatre cred and claim a volume discrepancy, I can pretty much predict how it will go.

 1) How much you give me?
 2) I missing x tons.
3) You give me more?
4) Oh, OK. You write (1/2x) on BDR, OK? 
5). OK.
                20 Minutes  Later..
6). OK, Thank You. No, no need. Bye Bye.

 That's about average. Now, from my end, it's

1) I show y tons, the number on the BDR.
2) OK. Chief, the volume is measured from my tanks, and is correct from my end. I realize you might need to recheck your tanks. You can come measure mine if you want again.
3) No, I'm empty. I can't give you more.
4) No. Is this your first visit here to the US? We don't negotiate, Chief. The volume is the volume.
5) Please give me a Letter of Protest showing the difference, and I will sign it for you.
6) No Letter of Protest? OK. Have a save voyage.

   That's about it. At this point, I don't see any return on being upset by the whole thing. It's impersonal. I used to get pretty upset about being accused of being a thief or a liar, but that's not what's happening. It's automatic, like pulling your hand off a hot stove- the signal doesn't even go all the way to the brain.

   At any rate, 90% of the time, there's no additional paperwork involved. Periodically, and especially with Indian/Pakistani engineers, they will go full Kabuki and engage in a waiting game and throw paperwork at me, which I duly sign. Sometimes they actually do see a difference between what I gave them and what they believe they received. Often enough it's a math error or an observer error, when it happens, in which case I really am sympathetic. That's easy enough and not always easy to find when it happens. For the most part, it's just a pro forma procedure; I don't have to like it, but I do have to deal with it. On the upside, after a few visits, it stops.


Rob said...

How many people do you have to rotate the overnight watch?

Anonymous said...

So I assume you pumpshave custody transfer meters on them to log the amount pumped and you keep the calibration certs for those?

It's how we do it at our facility so we know what wete getting. We add in a BTU meter so we know if the gas is on spec or off as well.


Paul, Dammit! said...

Rob- For the PIC, just two of us, sometimes three. The advantages of barge work, it keeps personnel to a minimum.

Exile1981- Nope- we use the measured ullages from the shore tank before/after, and it has to compare favorably with our observed net volumes in order for for us to be released. Since we don't own the oil, and carry it for suppliers, they provide the shore gauging and usually an inspector aboard, or they'll contract with the facility to have the dockman witness gauges with us at the end of a load. Ullages are a lot easier to deal with, and no calibration necessary except on the thermal probes.
Shipside, we just use the ullages and temp to get a new net, before and after, and have the ship witness it. A lot of them don't like it, and are annoyed there's no flowmeter, but it helps idiot-proof things on our end, and we need all the help we can get in that department.