Sunday, May 28, 2023

Bring your kid to work day

 So this was pretty cool. 

       We had a longer than expected cargo discharge last night out in Stapleton anchorage in NY harbor last night.  It started off rough, smoothed out, but dragged on. So it goes. 

         It was a little bitty bunkering job. About 200 tons of diesel and like 700 tons of heavy fuel to be transferred to a ship. Oil tankers are, perversely enough, good on gas. They're efficient. A 13,000hp plant is enough to push a 40,000 ton ship at an economic 14-15kts, and only burns about 30 tons of fuel a day I believe.  I dunno. I'm old enough that all my tanker time was done on the last of the steam ships, which burnt 60 tons a day and couldn't compete because of fuel costs. 

     So anyway, the ship was a bog-standard handymax sized product carrier. Filipino unlicensed crew, which meant that there were a half dozen of them waiting on deck when we came alongside. Our assist tugboat's mate, however, had a bad time getting alongside. It took him about an hour to get us all fast, whereas normally it's a 10 minute gig from passing the first heaving line to calling All Fast.  Combination of tide and tug- our assist tug was one of our heavy, unwieldy high-hp tugs, not one of the smaller more agile harbor tugs. The heavy tugs can easily break all of my mooring hawsers by leaving both engines in gear at idle, so the operator has to handle the tug with kid gloves. Plus, they're made for ocean work and heavy towing. It's like driving a tractor-trailer at a NASCAR race compared to our harbor tugs. 

 So, yeah, we lost time getting all fast. And then, sadly, a bunch of Indian engineers show up. 

     Look, it's not nice, but when the Indian engineers show up, you know several things are going to happen, and we're not supposed to have opinions about anything these days but 9 times out of 10, this means the schedule is absolutely gone. Out the window.  These guys are NOT efficient. They are VERY safe, however, which is cool, but nobody's empowered to make any decisions, which is not. To call it micromanagement is understated. The 3-4 subordinate engineers and their unlicensed helpers won't take a shit without written permission, a signed Job Hazard Analysis worksheet, a spotter and a safety meeting. Possibly also a safety harness and condoms too. Plus adalit or however you call the untouchable caste, to push the lever. 

    This isn't universal. It's only mostly universal. I work with some fantastic East Indian regular crews, a few whom I've gotten to know well. Masterful, efficient, and with a particular grasp of the regulations involved. But mostly they're slow and pedantic. 

 I exaggerate but also not really. The chief, the busiest man on the ship, makes all decisions. This is NO BULLSHIT. I can't even get the crew to lower a bucket down to my deck so I can give them papers, a vhf radio or anything, without the chief engineer's approval.  Many times, ships have lowered a bucket to me, and I put an armful of papers in the bucket, then turn around to pick up a walkie-talkie to put in the bucket, and I see the bucket heaved up before I can put the radio in.  I yell up that I have more stuff to give them when the bucket is just out of arm's reach, but they're not allowed to change the direction of travel of the bucket without the chief's express permission. Which can take 5-20 minutes while the chief is located. 

     So the job should have been done at 0200. Instead, at 0530, I am finished pumping and have one of the two cargo hoses back on deck when Big E comes out to relieve me on deck. My watch is done.  It was a nice night, actually, just frustratingly slow. 

 I shower and go to bed, expecting when I wake up we'll be at anchor or working, as we have a cargo lined up but no times on the load yet. Instead, joy. I wake up at 1400 and we're at a lay berth in Brooklyn, on a SUNDAY, and I can go for a walk and have a quiet day. Finally. I didn't get one last month. I've been here for 5 days I think, and I've got a watch off. 

    I got a 5 mile walk ashore, time to myself, and then when I got back aboard the hq, I see my son's tugboat next to us, and he's out on the back deck needle gunning rust.  

 I'm friendly with the captain of the tug where my kid's training, so he got permission for a 30 minute break to come over to the HQ to say hi.  Our schedules are so out of sync during his training that I won't see him at home until August, so these short breaks are all the time I get. 

   Huh. I thought only my wife would have to deal with empty nest syndrome. I'm awful glad our paths are crossing this tour. 

 So, yeah, all is well, and I got to hear about his training, and took a picture together to send to his mom. Pretty damn good day. 


    I rip on Indian engineers here, but I can point fingers at every nations' mariners for particularly annoying consistent habits- the often drunken Russians, the ready-to-fight eastern Europeans, the lazy Americans, the oblivious Chinese, etc. The only guys I can't rip on are the Japanese, the car carrier crews. Those guys are fast, efficient, friendly, helpful and damn good mariners. They're little tiny Boy Scout-Astronauts. 

 And yeah, I'm indulging in cheap stereotypes. Nobody pulls a hammie reaching for the low-hanging fruit. 


1 comment:

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

Glad I found your blog. I am enjoying reading your story.