Monday, August 20, 2018


We spent a week doing cargo and making ready to go, our first port of call being Singapore, where we'll take on more voyage stores, fuel, and a security team.  The security team will establish defensive emplacements on the ship and harden her against pirate attack when we travel through those particular Indian Ocean waters around the Gulf of Aden.

The pace of things was so overwhelming and chaotic while getting ready to set sail that there were moments when I told myself "the gangway is still on the dock... Go Home.  Go Home Now."  Alas... I was too busy to listen that clarion call of sanity.

It was so relentless a pace that the chief mate simply quit.  He was a negative man with a condescending attitude and the tendency to abuse his rank's lofty place in the chain of command; He hung around for a few days after requesting a relief, like the smell of a dead possum in a crawlspace, and then he was gone... the only proof he'd ever been here was the caustic assessment of the sailors with whom he shared this ship.

The new mate who came on is a large man with an easy-going manner and enough experience and institutional knowledge that I want him to stay (I have all but begged him to stay), but he's planning on leaving in Singapore.  My loss- and this ship's loss.

Before getting underway, the garbage situation aboard was so bad that even the old man spent hours working with the chief mate and the gang, hauling it up two decks from the aft of the tug, throwing it into a cargo net, where I retrieved it and put it into a truck on the dock.  When the truck was full I'd ferry it all to a 30 yard dumpster and unload it.  The agent's man, a guy named Theodore with huge and exaggerated muttonchop sideburns and a safety vest over his bare chest, assisted me by telling me stories while I worked. I don't think he ever inhaled once... the man could lay it on thick!  The garbage ranged from cardboard to double-bagged food waste; the food waste was like hauling 80-120 lbs. bags of sun-ripened puke that felt wet and ready to burst at any second- and the smell was enough to make the old man literally gag.

My hat is off to this captain- I have never seen the old man of any ship do the lowliest, meanest, most base task in order to ready us to depart.  Never.  He is a gentleman, and not used to labor of this sort, yet he cooked in the heat along side us dogs in order to get underway on time.

The new chief mate is a hawsepiper (made officer by coming up through the ranks) and has spent most of his time on the deck trying to determine why there is an unaccounted for 8000 tons of displacement aboard, and where exactly it might be.  He might have said 800,000 tons, I can't exactly recall.  Only someone on a ship as mismanaged as this one can imagine misplacing enough material to drop a 600 foot ship 3 inches in the water without a trace.  He immediately tasked me with achieving watertight integrity of all deck vents and doors on deck- something that all ships must have - when we watched 1.5 meter swells sending spray over the bow.  8 meter swells would put the bow of this thing under green water and those open vents would progressively flood the forepeak, machine room, and bow-thruster space.

This is how the scoreboard reads for the Intigrated-Tug & Barge M/V Moku Pahu - she is a dangerous ship, the most dangerous I've been on, and I spent three months on the sister ship to the El Faro... a ship that amplified the worst storm conditions, her snap rolls building in angry seas.  In my opinion, the Moku Pahu has been undermanned and neglected by management to a criminal extent.  Should there ever be an "incident" with this ship... well... goddamn.  The first hand accounts of those who have kept her afloat will be enough to damn this company to bankruptcy-by-lawsuit.  May those bean-counters total their ill-gotten gains for all eternity as they rot in hell.

The lifeboats are garbage.  It took us 2 hours to release one, today, and the gravity davit is bent.  We never got to the other one... we'll see how it rates soon enough.  The firefighting/Damage Control locker is a closet-sized locker with all our firefighting gear in zippered bags crammed into so narrow a confine that only one person can access it.  It is across a constricted companionway from the laundry room - where the dryers are, which are the pieces of equipment which cause the most shipboard fires.  So, should we have a laundry fire... well... we can't fight it because we can't get to our firefighting gear.

The windlasses are crap- the starboard anchor is completely inoperable.  The mooring winches are crap- one up foreward failed and parted an amsteel line when we warped at the dock, which destroyed the emergency shut-off switch when it snapped back and missed the last mate's hand by an inch.

This ITB (integrated tug and barge) was built for one purpose, and one purpose only - to get around the manning requirements that a comparable ship would have.  We have a crew of 16, whereas a ship this size would be required to have 21.  The international laws that govern rest requirements - STCW (Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchstanding), are routinely ignored on this ship because it is impossible to operate with this few people.  I did 50 hours of overtime last week - a physical impossibility under the IMO laws to which the USA is a signatory.

One of the Able Seamen - an Englishman (a Cockney) - admitted he slept with his phone and papers in a watertight bag next to his bunk in case he needs to abandon ship in the night.  He was on a ship that went down (scuttled by the old man, if the story is true) and feels it necessary to be prepared for any eventuality aboard the MV Moku Pahu.

And if we can't get this thing safe, to standards that satisify me, I will quit my very first ship since I first went to sea in 2012... I will break Articles (which I have yet to sign), go down the gangway, buy my own ticket home, and never look back.

1 comment:

  1. Yep. Get off her ASAP. There are plenty of good ships in need of a good bosun.