A Tale of two ships

Las Palmas for the weekend? Margate for the weekend? Hmm, scratch chin and check the online weather forecast. So be it, Gran Canaria gets it, but only just.

One port, two ships, two surveys and two VERY different experiences.

I’m  not one of those who bang on about stereo-typical Johnny foreigners and I’m really not one of those (honest your honour) who carp on about workers rights and social justice ……………… usually.

‘Atropos’ was a Greek owned, formerly Russian run and owned, baby product tanker of around 3000 tonnes deadweight. She earned her living as a mobile bunker station, refuelling the vast (mainly Russian) fishing fleet that is currently exterminating all marine life off of the the coast of Mauritannia. A round trip lasts around 2 weeks before, tanks depleted, she returns to Las Palmas to reload Gas OIl and IFO.

An internet search revealed that she had been arrested by port state authorities 4 times  during 2006, mainly for non-compliance with Statute  regarding little things like, certification, missing safety gear, engine room awash with oil fuel and holes in the side (or similar). Not a good indicator of what I might find. Fourteen months ago, her law dodging Russian owners had sold her on to some PO Box, behind the hot water pipes outfit in downtown Athens and the arrests had stopped and some money had been spent on her. To be fair to the new owners, they were making a bit of an effort to make the heap of Sh*t+ into something half respectable. Well, compliant anyway.

For a vessel that was 18 years old she didn’t look too bad from a distance, despite being in drydock. The paint-work was new, the name was shiny and bright and there weren’t too many dents in the hull. Accompanied by the demonic, crew bullying, very shouty superintendent, I went into every cargo tank and every ballast tank. They were, gasp with surprise, in very good nick. They’d spent money and it showed. So far so good, half the day gone and only the machinery, accommodation and management systems to check.

The pumproom was likely to harbour a few unpleasant surprises but even that came up smelling of roses, so to speak. It was more diesel smelly than rosey obviously but I’m sure you get the point. Her reputation seemed to be worse than the actuality of it.

That all changed when I enterd the accommodation.  Blimey, how people can be expected to live like that in the 21st century. Manky, tattered, penny budget, ‘treat them like shit’, minimally furnished, dark and sadistic. Awful. That was the just the start, the galley was falling to pieces, the food stores looked like they’d been maintained sometime after the Battle of Trafalgar but before the start of the Russo-Japan conflict and in the gaping holes that once housed items like fridges and dough mixers I was assured by the bullying super, that the cardboard boxes of garbage would be dumped, once they got a chance!! Goodness me it was depressing.

The mixed Greek, Fillipino and  Ukrainian ( now there’s a mix that says  ‘synergy’ ) were expected to do 6 month trips, they had no email access on board, no Iridium phone (for cheap phone calls when out of range of GSM), no library, no sat telly, a minimal DVD library, no public domain computer, no internet access, holes in the carpet and a wage regime that would have made a nautical Dickensian Scrooge proud.

When I pointed out to the superintendent (who, poor sod, was under great pressure himself and  had no control of those matters in anything but the most modest form) that the owners should be ashamed of themselves, he simply smiled, said it was all in the improvement programme and then asked  if the damned thing has ‘passed’. The really sad thing is, it had, albeit only just. That it did kind of, I suppose, asked more questions than it gave answers. I’ve a feeling I’ve said the same the thing before, and not too long ago either.

So, Atropos owners happy, back to the Hotel Melia, a four star, chain affair with a pretty stiff tariff, for a bit of grub. Nope!! They didn’t do food except at brekky time. Hmm. This however not the end of the world because Las Palmas is, in addition to being a busy commercial port and drydock town, a tourist resort. Zillions of aging Northern Europeans, EVERYWHERE. Restaurants EVERYWHERE too, so the grub problem was soon sorted, and well sorted at that. Rounded off the evening in a Finnish Kareoke bar where a gin and tonic the same size as Atropos’s centre cargo tanks could be had for 5 Euros. Gran Caria, I lurv yooo.

Next day bright and early and a friendly Dutch voice says at brekky, ‘You for the Englishman?’ Well yes I was (and how could he tell I was the surveyor, surely someone as slim, tanned and healthy as myself would have been invisible amongst the tourists that half filled the vast hotel dining hall) and what time was she due alongside?

Englishman, a German built tug of a certain vintage and I’d seen her before, but 3 years ago at Ravenna and for a different kind of tow. Thirty three years old and worked hard in that time, yet she was gorgeous and cared for and the crew were bursting with pride. A salutory lesson for those  that owned the Atropos. When a vessel is well run, is fully and properly certificated, when the management systems are in place and understood by those aboard, when the crew are competent and professional and when the company that owns (operates) it are competent and professional, a suitability survey is a doddle. A pleasure. A ship spotter’s paradise. A holiday and an adventure, all rolled into one. Englishman was that, I loved her and her crew. Thank you Polish Salvage Association, that’s how to do things, despite the vessel’s age.

That was it then, job done. Reports written. No seats back to London until the following evening, damn!! So, a long stroll along the seafront promenade, no oiky British holiday makers around, so all very pleasant. Back to the Finnish place for a 12 litre gin and tonic and the start of the mental preparation for the flight home. No room in Business class (:o)), the ignominy of economy class beckoned. What a snob!!!

Next weekend and it’s Congo. Eeek. Not been there for 11 years and I still sweat and shake at the thought, awful place. Hermod however, needs a good (ahem) looking at, and I’m the man (it seems).

Wish I wasn’t.

Anyone seen the patron saint for mariner/sailor types people recently? I rather feel the need for a bit of help.

About allatsea

Sixty year old master-mariner. Absolutely gorgeous. Well wedged.....when compared to a Nairobi street urchin. Sorted, in that I haven't been in court recently. Hopelessly optimistic, terminally disappointed. Good with cats and other fluffy things. No musical talent. Generous to a fault provided it's someone else's round. Political centreist with far right and left viewpoints. A green activist from the hydrocarbon position with nuclear leanings. Averse to avarice but always happy to receive lottery wins, gifts, windfalls, legacies, prizes and wet sloppy kisses.
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