NOW I'm back in the routine.
My first two cargo discharges went off badly this tour. This happens, especially when we work with engineers and ships that don't normally visit the US. In this weekend's experiences, it was a matter of routine on my part and inexperience on the part of the engineer, at least when it comes to how we bunker vs. how the rest of the world bunkers a ship.
From start to finish, our focus on safety and honesty in what we do is not the usual M.O. when compared to many places in the world. AB's are surprised and often unhappy at the number of mooring lines they have to heave for us and that we expect everyone to move quickly and instantly when it comes to evolutions like making fast or unmooring.
Great example- in a pretty decent current and swell and 25+knots of wind, we caught two of our 6 lines and lined the barge up with the manifold area of the first ship, but the crew disappeared and we waited to catch more lines. They were given another task to do or wandered off, and it took some tooting of the tug's whistle to get them back to work. Meanwhile our tug captain was sweating bullets trying to keep in position without straining our lines. Time being an issue, I let the AB's know we needed more speed ("Let's go, girls, the captain is struggling to keep us in place and you're up there f*cking the dog now."). I do make a point not to directly insult foreign deckhands. I don't want to get brained by a monkey's fist in the dark and they do pay us to get fuel, not to be shitty to them.
What follows is the usual mess. Letting the ship get organized enough to connect the diesel and heavy fuel hoses, praying that whoever is directing me while I'm at the crane and working blind is good at their job, and waiting for the engineers to come down.
Newly-arrived foreign engineers expect me to attempt to screw their company out of oil and or money. They're wary. Some give us the benefit of the doubt, and wait and see if we're out to screw them, some will preemptively try to screw us. It's how they work, elsewhere, and I hate it.
The one thing that these folks don't expect is utter honesty. I WANT them to measure the volume of oil in our tanks, before and after we pump fuel. They receive an exact accounting of how much fuel they took, out to 2 decimal places in barrels, which is about 3 pints. So, they might get a million gallons of fuel, but what's on the bill is accurate to within a soda bottle's worth of volume.
This is a double edged sword. These guys expect us to dick around and to have the ability to dick around when it comes to the numbers. The first ship we dealt with this weekend wanted me to convert everything to metric and then round things up to whole numbers.
Then they wanted to negotiate the volume listed on the Bunker Delivery Note.
"Well, we won't sign for anything but the exact volume we requested. No decimals."
Me: "Yes you will."
"Well, we need you to round down to an even number, then, for our computer."
It went on like that. I was feeling pretty patient, so I eventually said we don't negotiate and we don't cheat anyone, including the ship or the supplier, so the numbers are the numbers. Eventually they get the idea. Usually they threaten to give us nastygrams, Letters Of Protest they're called, which are used to establish details in an official record should arbitration be required at some point by a court. What they don't expect is that we like these. "Yes, sir, please send the letter down and I'll be happy to sign it." What the hell do I care? I know the right thing was done on my part, and they're being dicks more often than not as a pro-forma exercise.
To their credit, these two bad jobs took longer than they should have to perform because of shipside foolishness, but no one tried to outright steal, and no one was unbearably rude on either side. So it goes. While I always hope bunkering goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn't, and that's part of our routine, too.