We successfully completed our first two jobs here in Philadelphia. No one at the loading terminal remembered the HQ, or me, for that matter. I saw one dockman I recognized, who is now gray and walking a little slower than I remember. That's going around, though, in the years since I was here last.
These first jobs were small, as are most of the jobs I will be doing here. The Delaware River area, where I'm working, is pretty diverse. There are a lot of smaller ships that serve secondary ports, and it's probably a more 'normal' sample size of what's out there. It's gotten to the point that anything under 1000 feet long is a 'small' ship for me to bunker. So these first jobs entailed fueling up two fruit ships. The upper part of the river is more shallow than much of NY harbor, and that is important too.
There are still cargo ships with refrigerated holds out there, the 'reefer ships' that were once famous have mostly been replaced with refrigerated cargo containers carried on standard container vessels. But not always. Cargo movement has evolved so much in the past 20 years, but companies that bought new ships 20+ years ago and invested in the infrastructure and distribution system of the time can still do fine with older-style gear and transshipment.
The first ship was a Del Monte reefer ship.
Yeah, all the peas n' carrots and fruit cup you can imagine.
The smell coming from the holds was amazing. It smelt like the produce section of a really good grocery store, or a fresh produce shop if you've ever been in one of those. It smelled...green, and clean.
It's been 8-9 years since I bunkered one of these. They load SLOW, however, compared to an ultra large container ship. Where I usually pump at 500+ tons of fuel an hour, the engineer on this ship was nervous at 150 tons an hour. I had one of my two diesel pump engines on, just ticking over above idle speed.
The pace here is slower. A lot slower. We sailed down to Wilmington Del after that first ship, a 3hr steam, to bunker a Dole fruit ship. This one was a self-unloading container ship, not a reefer. Newer ship, slightly.
I have to be more creative here to safely tie up and to get my fueling hoses to the ships' manifold area. An Ultra Large Container Carrier, the manifold is usually within the same general area on a one-house ship, and it's way the F up high above us, which is why the HQ has a larger crane than anything my company has down here in Philly. Down here, a big ass crane gives me a lot of flexibility as to where I can tie up along the ship, whereas I have a 5 foot 'window' spot on an ULCC or I won't be able to reach their manifold.
The tugs down here aren't yet sure what to do with me. I've only dealt with two of them so far, but both have commented that they were weirded out by where I spotted the barge relative to the dock to load and relative to the ship to discharge. The HQ is laid out differently that the barges down here, even though we have the same hull as several of them. I have to be 40-50 feet further forward than they do, as my longer crane is mounted further aft than anything down here. This is done so I can lay alongside a ship snug rather than have my ass end hanging past the stern of the ship when we're made up together.
It seems to be steady work. Plenty of ships are still moving on time and on schedule more or less, and I've got a rough schedule set up for the next week, as far as scheduled bunkers. Some more might show up from the spot market, when ships just call for it a day or so in advance. The Kung Flu has slowed things down a bit, but we're holding our own I think. I don't know what the collapse in fuel prices will do to us. We don't own the fuel, we just move it, but I can't imagine the owners of the fuel will happily open their pockets if they're not making any money themselves.