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|Irish Trampship mis-adventures: Chapter Two|
|Monday, 23 July 2012 18:29|
Chapter Two: Voyage Bangkok-Maraveles-Bataan-Hualien
By Gordon O'Rourke
Bangkok was a booming, bustling city, with horrific traffic jams like Jakarta or Mexico City. It would take an hour or more just to get your car out of the hotel car park.
It was a paradise for sex-starved bachelors (especially the notorious Patpong district) and was laden with cheap artifacts for sale. Hordes of motor scooters added to the mix of traffic as they wove their way through the logjams.
We selected a hotel that was halfway between the Port area and the Airport, on the basis that it should be easier to get to the ship every day and to the airport on our last day. It didn't make that much difference.
Discharge of the ship’s steel cargo took about two days, during that time we had managed to secure a voyage charter for ‘Helena’ on reasonable terms from a Hong Kong-based company and our local agent.
The first part of the intended voyage was to load about 4,000 tonnes of large granite or marble blocks of up to 10 tonnes in weight each for Hualien, Taiwan, with a top up cargo of about 5,000 tonnes of small-sized logs from Mariveles in the Southern Philippines. The subsequent journey would then require a call at Bataan (near Manila) to get Filipino government outward clearance for the cargo of logs,
Meanwhile, a replacement Greek Captain (Kyriacos Econimou) arrived to take over from the Polish Captain.
Loading the granite blocks was a lesson in itself. The smaller pieces of granite had to go into the smaller lower holds, and the larger pieces into the larger holds.
Fully loaded with the ships own derricks from barges alongside, there were no accidents (though one or two near calls), as the ship’s gear struggled with the larger pieces.
There was no mechanisation available, so the large granite blocks were moved around the lower holds with small logs or tree branches under the slab, and then another log as a lever, moving the granite over the pre-laid bottom tier of logs. It worked. Where there's a will there's a way. The stevedores and the ships crew then spent several hours lashing all the granite blocks in place with coils of wire rope and bulldog grips. This was our first taste of the primitive but workable methods in the Far East.
Declan and I had our work cut out, watching over the loading as well as supervising some of the many minor repairs that we were hoping to complete over the next few months.
The off-duty crewmembers were meanwhile savouring the delights of Patpong. It kept them happy for a while until the next port.
Sailing Day approached and Declan and I checked out of our hotel and ran the gauntlet of traffic to the ship. We were going to sail with her as far as Hualien. Meanwhile, John at the home office would look for cargoes outward from Hualien or nearby China.
Fortunately for us, the ship did have good modern communication systems, equipped with two Thrane & Thrane Telex terminals. It was a breeze talking with John and relaying and receiving vital information.
We arrived safely at Mariveles, only to find that the loading jetty was a small finger pier jutting out from the beach. We had to anchor with both anchors down forward and moor the stern to the small pier, which barely reached as far as our after-most hold.
According to our Filipino crewmembers, Mariveles was a hot spot for rebel activity and it was best we kept a low profile whilst we were there, lest we risk kidnapping or ransom.
The agent confirmed that later, and advised us that because of several Europeans being on board, he was posting armed guards on and near the ship .The ships agent was based in Davao City, which was about a three hour car journey to Mariveles.
Loading was by our ships derricks. There were no barges of any description anywhere. The method was for the stevedores to construct small rafts from the log cargo and, by means of a small mobile crane on the end of the pier, load out the logs onto the rafts. We would haul the logs by messenger lines and our anchor windlass into position abreast each hold as required. Then, our derricks in the traditional “Union Purchase Mode“, at each of our five hatches we would haul the cargo on board. Primitive, slow but effective.
After the first day’s work, we estimated this would take us up to ten days to load the 5,000 tons.
Maraveles was about one car gear change of a Kampong-style village street. It had a small Post Office with a couple of small cafes, and that was it. It was the Barbary Coast of the Philippines.
It had its compensations though, it had a small beachside restaurant just a stone’s throw away from our ships side, where you could have a good meal and a cool beer followed by a swim anytime of day or night. It was very relaxing.
Declan and I had to get some faxes off to John and hopefully get a copy of the Bill of Lading (B/L) in return for the log cargo. The agent didn't have any whatsoever, so we trotted off to the village Post Office, expecting to see a place with all the modern conveniences. Jesus, it had nothing. Only one telephone, some stamps and an ancient Telex machine inherited from the US army at end of WWII.
There was no choice. We had to brave the long and risky car journey to Davao city. Reputed by the locals to be the largest city in the world by area at the time, it certainly didn't have any skyscrapers, but its total area was very large.
The shipping agent's car was used for the purpose. It wasn't a comfortable ride. The shock absorbers were worn, so we felt every bump during the journey, but thankfully there no rebels.
We managed to get our chores done at a slightly more modern Post Office, and by return received the B/Ls we needed.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, a reserve team from the Davao working girls group had chartered a bus from Davao and invaded the ship in our absence. Fortunately for us, Captain Kyriacos had managed to send them all off the ship. But they took up residence in the nearby beach club, and became an irresistible attraction for some of our crewmembers during their stay. God knows where our guys got the energy from, as we had only left Bangkok about 10 days earlier. The crew’s energy certainly wasn't being expended on the ships repair work in the engine room or the deck departments’ overside painting work.
Some of the crew were even taking their shipboard meals ashore with them and sharing some with their girlfriends at the beach club. “Marvelous Mariveles,” it became known as. It was a paradise to them. Needless to say, our repair work suffered for a few days.
Because the pier berth was a common user one, the owner of a small bitumen storage facility nearby was being very friendly and at the same time pressuring us to get the log loading done as quickly as possible, as he had a bitumen tanker at anchor waiting for the berth, and was incurring more and more demurrage for every day of delay.
Loading was sped up, and the end was in sight two days later, after almost ten days total loading time. We signed the B/Ls and sailed for Bataan, near Manila, about three days away. After clearance in Bataan it would take another three days to Hualien.
This story is a work of non-fiction. Unless otherwise noted, the author and the publisher make no explicit guarantees as to the accuracy of the information contained in this story and in some cases, names of people and places have been altered to protect their privacy.
The Irish Trampship mis-adventures
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