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|Irish Trampship mis-adventures: Chapter Four|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2012 17:28|
Chapter Four: Arrested in Keelung and Singapore
By Gordon O'Rourke
The ‘Helena’ arrived in Keelung and immediately entered the dry dock. The class surveyor was called in, and together we jointly inspected the damage to vessel, internally and externally.
Found: One propeller blade tip, bent; rudder upper pintle bush, dropped; side shell plating set in, internals in way; buckled/distorted G and H strakes port side, frames #34 to #126.
Our assumptions and precautionary actions had been correct. We felt vindicated.
The rudder pintle was the one that surprised me. I was expecting to see something like “rudder blade fractured,” but for the upper pintle bush to drop, it must have been quite some force with which we hit the quay. That force would have been transmitted to the pintle via the point of contact on the rudder blade.
The vessel repairs were completed in five days and we were getting the ship ready for sailing. Meanwhile, my daughter Sarah had arrived from Boracay in the Philippines, where she had just completed a six-month contract. She witnessed all the interviews with lawyers as our P&I club insurers were getting all the facts and statements from us.
One day, when I enquired from the shipyard for a quote for some extra work to be done, the shipyard manager was most polite, but said “Mr O'Rourke, I’m sorry but I can’t do that just now, as my estimators are all out of the office escorting your daughter around the sights of Keelung.”
So Declan and I started to prepare for the negotiation of the invoice for all the repair work with the shipyard. It was agreed I would stay sober during the working lunch, finalising the invoice. Declan, who was a stronger drinker than me, would soak up the beer. ‘Submarines’, they called them. They consisted of a glass of rice wine submerged in a flagon of beer.
Everything was falling into place, and we were soon set for sailing to China that evening. John had fixed a voyage charter of a full cargo of cement from China to Incheon (South Korea).
Suddenly, a football team of lawyers invaded us.
They represented the container boom owners in Hualien, who posted a warrant of arrest on the ship. It was affixed to the wheelhouse door window with scotch tape, rather than nailed to the mast, as popular romantic sea story fiction and Moby Dick would have us believe.
More frantic phone calls ensued, trying to arrange for the P&I club in London to put up a financial bond to allow the ship to sail. This was accomplished after about three hours, whilst Declan kept his cool, and even sat down and played a few games of chess with the opposing lawyers. Eventually, after the bond was posted and checked out, the ship was ready to sail.
Soon Declan, my daughter and myself were getting ready to fly out from Keelung. There was only one snag. We had to be escorted to the plane by a young Taiwanese immigration officer, as we had entered the country initially at Hualien, as seamen on the ‘Helena’. So we had to leave as seamen and be escorted out, in case we chose to stay. No hopes of that happening. We had had enough of Taiwan and its atrocious weather. To top it all off, the young immigration officer was trying to flirt with my daughter. He broke into song, with a rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ as we were going through the airport. I think he was trying to impress her with his command of English. If nothing else, it caused some laughter and cheered us up with a bit of light-hearted nonsense.
We flew on to Singapore, in the belief that the ship had gone to China. We found out on arrival however, that John had diverted the ship at sea by a telex message, to load some project cargo in another Chinese port for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Apparently, he had fixed the ship on a six-month time charter to a Japanese client and had aborted the voyage contract for the cement to South Korea. He had briefly discussed this enquiry with me whilst we were in Keelung, and asked me what I thought was the better deal. Obviously, I had said a six month time charter was a better proposition at a good daily rate, rather than the vagaries of a voyage charter, which by now had demonstrated to him that delays on a voyage charter can be costly, as witnessed by our second voyage.
I didn't know then that he had also unwittingly fixed the cement contract at the same time as the time charter. He thought he could just walk away from the cement charter, as he had not signed a contract.
Oh dear, it looked like we were in the sh-t again.
About a week later, the ship arrived in Singapore and proceeded to the Sembawang wharves to discharge part cargo. Upon arrival, another group of lawyers descended on the ship and posted another arrest warrant on the wheelhouse window.
They were claiming on behalf of their clients in South Korea for compensation for the cancelled voyage charter. Their client maintained that the bagged cement had “set hard” in China whilst waiting for another ship.
Personally, I couldn't believe that story, as bagged cement usually consists of several layers (or ply) of paper, up to four or five ply thick. I thought it was pretty impossible for moist air to get in and harden the cement, unless the shipment was an old one, or the bags were torn or substandard.
Of course, these were our thoughts only, and were difficult to prove at this stage of the game. It was down to negotiations with the cement cargo owners lawyers in Singapore, which we duly did.
We managed to get their claim reduced with the help of our P&I club lawyers.
Eventually it was settled and the ship sailed, not needing our presence so much now as she was being instructed by the Japanese time charterer as to what to do and where to go for rest of the six month time charter. We decided instead to visit the Japanese clients in Tokyo, to reassure them about the ship and to establish a good working relationship with them.
The clients were very courteous and hospitable, and accepted our assurances that the incident was a ‘one off’ and we would do our best to make sure it didn't happen again. The clients had been nervous about our ship’s age, but we assured them of the ship’s strength and recent dry-docking. Their intention was to trade her mostly on contracts that they had for voyages to India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, with project cargoes from Chinese Ports. Finally, we had a tour of Tokyo, visited a few brokers for future contacts, and returned to Singapore.
Next week: Chapter Five - Trading in Southeast Asia
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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