Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Here's something I don't understand, and I feel that I need to tread lightly to explain... it could be very easy to piss someone off, should any of my coworkers both former and current actually read this, and my explanation be misconstrued.

My new employer has lots of brand new equipment. While the tug-and-barge industry is exploding in the US, the shipping companies are running in place for some reason, at least, if the media is to be believed. My former employer is building some gorgeous new ships; something remarkable to achieve, in all honesty, but I worked for a bit of a dark horse of a company; an unlikely a success story as could be believed, but one that exists perpetually on an uphill slope. Such pressure doesn't make for a dynamic relationship between the chiefs and the littlest of indians like me. In fact, drawing attention to myself only happened when I did something stupid, yet the truth of the matter is that the janitor from the service company that cleans the management office has greater input than the little guys in the labor pool.

Half of the pleasure I derive from my current job is that many of the people I encounter here really want to be here. The labor environment is radically different, while the labor pool is the same as it is anywhere.

Here's a good 'for instance' that might explain what I mean. As I said, most of the equipment here is new- 90% of the tugboats and barges are 3-4 years old or less. The company renewed and expanded tonnage long before I joined, which is absolutely the hallmark of the tug-and-barge industry in the US- lower construction costs, and standards that are meant to be attainable. Now, my unit is among the oldest pieces of equipment owned by the company. The tug is 20+ years old, and the barge, while older, is double-hulled. I inherited a while elephant- the last crew let the barge go to shit. No one wants this barge for those reasons- an antiquated boom-and-stay crane system isn't that popular either.

For me, however, it's no problem. I have no problem playing catch-up on maintenance and improvements. I watched the folks on my old ship, and how they did things, good and bad, and I've been given free rein to game things out and bring ideas to management for polishing up this marble.
Perhaps this is a good lesson for me to learn- by feeding my ego a little, and giving me some space to work, management here has made me want to work. And my barge is starting to look GOOD. We've got less downtime, all PM's (Preventative maintenance) are current, and capital improvements are scheduled and, more importantly, OK'd.
Many of the guys that are in my position on new barges don't have much to do when they're not actually moving cargo- they need no capital improvements, and maintaining new equipment isn't a full-time job like it is here. So, when guys raft up to us, or walk by on the dock, they stop to talk, and some laugh at seeing me out there on deck alone after dinner, rolling out paint or scrubbing oil sludge residue out of the containment system. The younger guys don't believe that it's part of their job. The older guys nod and tell me that my barge is looking better than it has in years. The truth is, I've had good training- the chief engineer and chief mate on my ship are counted among my friends- I watch and learn how do do stuff above my pay grade, but haven't been given the opportunity to try my hand at such things until now. Plus, the little sludge spots and stuff from messy sample collection? That's oil. It makes a sheen on the water, and making a sheen on the water now results in stronger punishment than, say, beaning someone on the head with a tire iron. How fucked up is that? Anyhow, I want no trouble, so I'll go into extra innings to avoid such.
I'm sort of assuming that there will be a payoff here, anyhow. This winter, I plan on warming my chair vigorously when not employed in moving cargo. I'm hoping that well-maintained stuff won't want to break at the same rate it wants to under normal winter conditions. Besides, the payoff has already started, in all reality. By painting, polishing and scrubbing every inch of this bucket down, I've learned about all kinds of things, from the condition of the brackets that hold the hydraulic lines in place (excellent), to the scars of old repairs made when this thing was converted to its' current configuration; things that will need addressing at the next shipyard period a year or two from now. Out here, Boring Is Good. I want no surprises.

So, today is a sparkling, beautiful cool day. Good day to do some work, but I'm going to stand down a little and just do a few things. It's Sunday, the day of rest, and Labor day weekend, after all.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

I am enjoying your blog -- you have a natural voice that is enjoyable to read. Plus I like that you care about your job.