Monday, September 30, 2019

Boom goes the chemical ship

  Over the weekend, the chemical ship "Stolt Groenland" suffered a massive explosion in the port of Ulsan, Korea.

 Yeah, that's no joke, and amazingly, despite 10 injuries, mostly among the terminal staff, nobody was killed! Very lucky there. Less lucky was the ship next to it, the "Bow Dalien" who suffered as a result.

 It's believed that the Stolt Groenland was carrying styrene, which may be the cargo that blew up.

          Both Stolt Carriers and Odfjell Seachem, the owners of these vessels, have lost ships to explosions in the past. There's a certain amount of fatalism in dealing with casualties in the chemical trade. In speaking of this disaster with the dockman at a local fuel terminal that also tends to chemical ships, the man's response was along the lines of 'Well, that's what chemical ships do; they explode.'
           There's some interesting video at the following link. I've got a shitty signal connection today so I can't embed better video here, because I am in New York, and it's apparently a savage wasteland where 4g is taboo.

            The first video shown is from the perspective of the crew of the Bow Dalian, who were abandoning ship, a reasonable reaction to having the ship  next to you blow up, when you're on a godamned floating bomb yourself.

 I remember the "Bow Mariner" incident off of Virginia about 15 years ago. I was in the Gulf of Mexico at the time working.  That one was deeply upsetting to me because I was just learning tanker operations like tank cleaning, improper performance of which caused that particular ship to explode.

 The cause of the Stolt Groenland explosion is as yet unknown.  Styrene is extremely volatile, and accidents have happened before.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

stencil day

For some reason, my newish tankerman mate here on the HQ decided to go nuts with a white paint pen out on deck and mark off the pipelines, ullage ports and hatches.  He never thought to break out a stencil kit, as is actually required, and  for a bit there, the HQ looked like a goddamned train station in a bad neighborhood. I've since unfucked the HQ and repainted this week.

 I like this guy a lot. He's an interesting dude, from Argentina originally, who grew up in Miami, but is now a Texan. Thing is, he's not a sailor qua sailor as I think of it.  By that I mean he's never been to sea, but rather spent a few years on deck on the Mississippi, building tow and not standing watches,  a job I know only a little about, save that it's brutal on the back. Somewhere along the way he acquired a Tankerman PIC certificate and went to a tug and barge company that is famous for being a repository for criminals and the lowest of the low, and where working safe gets one fired. Sadly, given that he has an accent and came into the tankerman's position without the seamanship skills that you find in an Able-Bodied seaman, that company chose not to train him, and instead used him for scut work and heavy lifting. As such, the few habits he had, were mostly bad. He was smart enough to change jobs, and landed with us. We've been training him in the ancient art of being honest while appearing to be shifty ever since.

   The HQ doesn't need AB's, and while I have trained my share, the HQ is not a suitable place to teach and AB. Given that I stay in my job because I get to stay the hell away from people in the first place, that's not good either.  As such, we've ended up with a tankerman who doesn't know shit about seamanship and has no experience as a sailor, but who is a fully qualified tankerman by legal standards. The poor guy fell through the cracks, and didn't even know it.

           Legally, it's all good in the neighborhood. Socially, the guy has been shit upon from A Great Height by other guys in my company, who have been merciless in their interactions with him. We all assume that to be here, one must have a common background in a professional capacity. This isn't true, of course, but that's the state of the zeitgeist here, and people hate it when there's a nailhead standing proud.I sympathize, which is why we've kept him on. He learns very fast and unfortunately has never been in a maritime environment where people were nice to him before. I mean what the hell is that about?  Granted, I've met some assholes on boats, but overall, I like most people out here a lot more than any John Q. Dingus out on the street. I can't help but think that oceangoing mariners might be a more welcoming bunch than river rats. Maybe because the environment is so much more dangerous? I dunno.

 I'm one of the few tankermen in my company who cut his teeth on Product tankers, ships carrying multiple products, what used to be called 'floating pharmacies' at least in the textbooks. Before I had anything to do with what was in the tanks, however, I had an Able Seaman Unlimited, having spent 1080 days at sea, presumably learning something along the way. 3 damn years at sea, if you don't learn how to be at least a semi-competent sailor,there's something terribly wrong. In reality I had a couple thousand more days at sea, having grown up around fishing boats, but whatever. My point is that I already had had a sea-daddy to teach me the language and bearing needed  in basic seamanship, and how to communicate effectively, as well as Basic Seamanship. There was structure, and learning was an incremental process. I learned basic seamanship on small boats, then on ships, how to be a tankerman, and later how to be a bunker tankerman. My second man has had no such structure.
    Well, he's becoming a pretty decent tankerman. There's not much I can teach him about being an AB, beyond some of the ancillary skills. Really, the guy needs to spend some time offshore, to be immersed in the gestalt of being a mariner, rather than being a floating gas station attendant.

 I can't quite capture the right tone here. I am not complaining. I pity the guy and see some potential there. We're keeping him on here. The principal part of his job he can do fine now, especially now that he is being treated like a human being.  I still foresee him getting a fair bit of grief from others, but he's a known quantity to us on board.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

ordinary time

Well, I'm back into the routine at work. Nothing of note is happening here. Work, some rest, rinse, repeat.Boring is good.
   I tried watching the news on TV. Other than the weather, which was ridiculously sensationalized, it was all bullshit. Ugh. That was a mistake.  Maybe there'll be some free ice cream tomorrow.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Uh-oh. 34 Sealift Ships Were Just Activated

By Sal Mercogliano, Ph.D. – In a week punctuated by a drone missile strike on two oil production plants in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, the United States Transportation Command on Monday initiated a Large-Scale Sealift Readiness ExerciseAs part of its Turbo Activation series which began in 1994, the joint command, located at Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois, issued activation orders for 22 ships from the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force and 6 vessels from the Military Sealift Command. This activation of 28 ships at one-time is the largest single-day activation in the history of the surge sealift force. Even during the conflicts in 1990 and 2003, when a total of 86 and 58 ships were broken out of the reserve fleets respectively, this figure exceeds any single day.

 Read the rest of the article here 

        MSC ships carry larger crews than civilian ships, although both are mostly crewed by civilian mariners.  Along with the 28 ships activated the other day, 6 additional ships were activated yesterday. 


Round two
6 more RRF vessels activating please contact your Union hall tomorrow

 It's not too hard to read the tea leaves. The RRF had a massive spectacular fail this past spring when it became apparent that the ridiculously antiquated mothball fleet will be unlikely to meet the sealift needs in any overseas conflict. Hence the turbo activation. Never mind a twofer, this is a multiplefer. Given Iran's saber rattling and a lot of seeming interest in not avoiding a direct conflict with Iran, a little scrimmage was scheduled.  I'll leave it to brighter minds to parse out the details, but it doesn't seem all that opaque an exercise. We're likely going to kick sand in someone's face before too long. We no longer have the ships to support a rapid invasion. A demonstration would serve multiple masters.

 Either way, there's a massive demand for mariners this week. I'm curious to see how that pans out, let alone the ships. I'm glossing over the defense and global security aspects here. I'm out of my wheelhouse when it comes to military issues.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

making stuff

With just a few days to go before heading back to the HQ, today was my last day of goofing off in my shop. Next time I go in there, I'll be tidying up in preparation for heading back to work.

 I didn't buy much new wood this time, and in fact I cut down or used a a good bit of my cutoffs, stock that doesn't have much use. I made a couple of charcuterie boards

 And also a wooden flag made up of the last of my 1x2 castoffs.

 Carving those 50 stars was a royal whore for me, and I don't love the waving lines, but I wanted to try freehand carving with a dremel tool, rather than picking at it with a chisel, which, given the low-quality of the soft pine, wouldn't have worked out. Still, it was a fun project, and the boards were a good lesson on what my bandsaw can and can't do- I snapped 2 blades putting too much lateral force on the work, and since I'm working with walnut and rock maple, it's just too much for my little bandsaw. Luckily, the dings weren't too bad, and some superglue loaded with sawdust hid the scuffmarks pretty good in the joins.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Catching up

I've been home for 10 days already. Hard to believe. The first week was a matter mostly of hurricane prep and then restoring the place to normal. We got a glancing blow that did no damage to the B homestead beyond being physically draining. Very, very grateful. After the hurricane passed, the heat and humidity went back to early-July levels, where it's been staying, so doing much of anything outdoors has been deeply trying. I've been swimming a lot, which is an exception. Great swimming weather.

       Today is really my first day to myself where I don't have a big list of shit I have to get done before I get to do the things I want to do. I'm going to be cutting some expensive wood up, the last of my good maple and walnut, which is really just a couple of  3x6x8 rough cut lumber that'll have to be planed down and shaped to make my next little project, a charcuterie board in a drunken curved pattern, one of my favorite cuts. The leftovers, I dunno what I'll do. Maybe make some boxes or something. I have the pine stock to make a wooden American flag on hand, which is going as a gift to a disabled vet I know, also. Having 3 weeks off is awesome, although I sure do miss the paycheck I won't be getting this week.

          I took an extra week off last fall to care for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife after she had abdominal surgery, which was a lot of work requiring near 24h effort for all 3 weeks. This is way better. I'm pretty beat, though. Since I'm not at work, I'm trying to take advantage of every extra minute I can. Soon enough I'll be back at the grind.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

buttoned up

Well, Castle B is all shuttered and ready for come what may, as best we can be, anyhow. My preps were more or less ready on day 1 of hurricane season, so I have a week's worth of water for everyone, not to mention plenty of beer, booze, ice and other critical supplies. Hurricane Dorian is a category 5 at the moment, just a beast.
 It's not healthful to drink whisky in high temps and high humidity, so I have enough ice blocks to keep my fridge and freezer happy for 4-5 days, plus about 10-15lbs of ice cubes. You know, the important stuff.

      So, having spent thousands of dollars I didn't have to buy hurricane panel shutters earlier this summer turned out to be wicked smaht after all. In the end, I put up just over half of them, and managed to get heat exhaustion AGAIN, second time this summer, and retreated inside to have a good barf and a cool shower. I got gouged pretty hard by a local contractor who put up the remainder of my shutters for cash on the barrel, but it seemed like a good idea. I have a SHIT TON of windows, and many of them are on the second floor. I was useless for the rest of the day, and helped Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife clear the patio furniture and the like, shit that didn't require being in the sun too much.

    Yesterday I was back at it, helping a neighbor with a similar house to mine. Single dad, so he definitely needed the help. I got roasted again, but since I wasn't up a ladder or anything, I made it through OK.

 I learned a lot from judging the state of things around where I live. Gas and bottled water become impossible to get early on. I was lucky enough to spot a gas tanker truck at a local station and was only like #9 in line for the pumps, so I was able to top my tank, which was only like $10, but still, who knows when there'd be another chance.

 So, guns are clean and clear, and we're enjoying the last day of nice weather. I have a couple of little jobs to do today, putting up the shutters over the french doors at the back of the house, so I will have to say goodbye to the sun for a while, but so it goes.

 Weatherwise, it looks like we caught a break and it went from a projected direct hit to a glancing blow. If the forecast is right, we shouldn't see too much over 70kt winds, which is enough to fuck things up a bit, but a hell of a lot better than the 140mph they were predicting 48 hours ago. I hope it is so, but if it isn't there isn't much I can do differently.

     As has been pointed out, it is a super dick move to pray that some other poor bastard take the hit and I be spared, but if it pans out like that I will be relieved of course for my own sake, and I do hope that there will be minimal impact to all. I didn't pray for anything like that, and yet I'd probably still feel guilty anyhow.

          As often happens in a crisis, I've been getting to know my neighbors more here in my new neighborhood. Super nice folks.