Opinion

Another story of “Strange things happen at Sea” by Alex Lang


published on 13 September 2021 407 -

Text and photos by Alex Lang, retired pilot, pilot for 28 years in New Zealand and Australia.

When I worked at the Port of Townsville in North Queensland during the eighties and nineties, the Port handled just about every type of ship imaginable. Passengers, Container ships, Naval vessels from the US,UK, NZ and Australia, tankers for the carriage of petroleum cargoes as well as bulk molasses. Then came large car/vehicle carriers, livestock-cattle carriers, dry bulk carriers for cement, coke, mineral concentrates, fertilisers, and sulphur.

Then ships for the carriage of the export 4 ton blocks of lead and zinc and copper concentrates from the inland mines of Mount Isa, down to ex oil rig tenders and small landing craft that carried containers hundreds of miles up the Fly River in Papua New Guinea.

Bulk Raw sugar was exported in large quantities, however the freight rates on raw sugar were not that high, and consequently the type of ship employed were those getting towards the end of their days. These types of bulk carrier brought their own problems in that the sugar was loaded at over 2000 tons per hour and often their deballasting pumps could not keep up with the loading rate. To alleviate this problem these older ships would endeavour to pump out as much ballast as they could prior to getting alongside. This in turn led to excess draft between bow and stern which then made the ships very difficult to manoeuvre in the narrow approach channel with any cross wind, as well as turning the vessel to face the port entrance before being put alongside the wharf.

Ships would always try to minimise any delays which would count against them in the Charter Party agreement and for this reason, Queensland Ports had a fairly simple rule requirement to counter ships tendency to present for Pilotage in an unsatisfactory condition. It stated that the propeller must be immersed and the forward draft should be 10% of the LOA (Length Over All). For instance ships with an LOA of 150 metres should have a Forward draft of 1.5 metres and the propeller fully submerged, this was still pretty minimal but adequate.

One Korean Company had two fairly old ships that came fairly regularly to Townsville for sugar and most times adhered to the Port requirements. On one occasion in November 1986 I was approaching the M.V. Moksong and could see that it seemed to be ‘flying high’ and closer inspection proved that the captain had chosen to ignore the rules, as the forefoot of the bow was completely out of the water and consequently a huge trim by the stern.
I was having problems communicating by radio so decided to go aboard to make sure the Captain understood the Port regulations and that he would be delayed until he complied. Having climbed the slab side of the ship high out of the water then five decks up to the bridge I found the Master could speak enough English and I’m sure he understood alright. He alternately pleaded with me between shouting at the Chief Officer trying to blame him for the predicament when he knew his ship would be delayed. Then he tried to turn his charm on me by saying yes he knew he was wrong but that “I” could do it (the pilotage ) and get him out of trouble.

I compromised by telling him to ballast his forepeak, and if I could see the bow getting deeper and as it was a nice day with little wind I might relent! The pilot launch crew were monitoring the forward draft and when it was reported that the draft was increasing I made the decision to take the ship into port as it was over an hour down the narrow dredged channel before the turning basin and where the sugar terminal berth was located, which would give some time for the forepeak tank to be partially filled. The captain during this time seemed slightly unhinged as he had been screaming down the engine room phone, obviously giving orders to pump ballast, then trying to be as nice as ‘pie’.

Shortly after, I headed the ship into port and was committed to the dredged channel and thought things were going reasonably well and under control. Suddenly the captain gave a horrible shriek, then clutched his chest and fell writhing on the deck of the bridge. My first thoughts were he’s had a heart attack and I’ve killed him from too much stress.

Before I knew it, it seemed half a dozen crew members were on the bridge and carried the flaying captain down below to his room. I radioed in a medical emergency to the Port authorities and was left on the bridge with a 3rd Officer who couldn’t seem to understand or speak any English, but the helmsman understood the helm orders I was giving. When my own heart rate had come down a touch I was able to then plan ahead to get the ship safely alongside. I was able to operate the engine room telegraph which normally would fall to the bridge Officer from my orders to the captain.

Two tugs were waiting off the berth as normal, and after making them aware of the situation I got the ship alongside and with the tugs both pushing up to pin the vessel, the gangway was lowered to get the ambulance crew on board, quickly followed by Customs and Agriculture Officers.

It probably took another twenty five minutes to make the ship fast and dismiss the tugs before I could leave the bridge and find out what was happening down below? When I got down to the Captain’s cabin I was utterly amazed to see him holding forth with the Port Authorities as if nothing had happened!. When the formalities had been completed and the ship cleared for entry, the ambulance crew took him to hospital for assessment. It turned out he was an epileptic and had an epileptic fit. The crew obviously knew what to do when they carted him off the bridge in quick time. He almost gave me a heart attack, that’s why I never forgot that particular pilotage.

The Moksong sailed the next day for Korea with a full load of sugar, and the captain seemed quite normal and never said a thing about the incident. Sometime later the other Company ship the Hwa Song arrived again for another load of sugar and as luck would have it I was the pilot, so I enquired about their other ship and its captain. After some hesitation I was informed that that captain no longer worked for the company as his medical condition now prevented his employment.
I often wonder how easy it is to cover up “A disaster waiting to happen”
Editor's note:
Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.

Join the conversation...

Login or register to write comments and join the discussion!
Marine Pilot Mustafa Sökükcü UZMAR Uzmanlar Denizcilik, Turkey
on 14 September 2021, 14:21 UTC

thanks for sharing
0

Read more...

Video Maiden voyage of HMM Algeciras #3-Busan-loading

published on 10 June 2020

The world's first 24,000 TEU container ship HMM Algeciras made its first domestic call to HPNT in Busan New Port on April 28th. HMM Algeciras loaded a total of 4,500 containers from Busan and headed for China.

0

Video Timelapse: ship departs Newcastle Harbour, NSW

published on 25 May 2020

Timelapse: watch our marine pilot assist the vessel Ocean Prometheus as it departs Newcastle Harbour, NSW ••• Port Authority of New South Wales manages the navigation, security and operational safety needs of commercial shipping in Sydney Harbour, Port Botany, Newcastle Harbour, Port Kembla, Eden and Yamba. With over 6,000 visits from trade and cruise vessels each year, the ports of New South Wales contribute billions of dollars to our economy; create thousands of jobs and support...

0

Video Two Way Traffic (The Texas Chicken). Explained by Capt. Lou Vest

published on 22 October 2020

With ships as large as 175 feet wide and a channel a maximum of 500 feet wide, how to you safely pass? Former Houston ship channel pilot, Lou Vest, explains how ships fight against hydrodynamics to pass with such narrow margins.
https://houstonmaritime.org

0

Article Cargo ship RIMINI collided with lock gate, Kiel Canal

by Marine-Pilots.com - published on 19 May 2020

The ship could not slow down and sailed against the Old North Lock - “Alte Schleuse Nord”.

0

Article Improving maritime situational awareness with augmented reality solutions

published on 1 February 2022

The use of augmented reality (AR), i.e. the addition of computer-generated information to real images, has become established in various areas:

0

Video Dongara Marine Custom Boatbuilding Diversity

published on 1 June 2021

Compilation clip highlighting some of the diverse custom boats we have built recently: the 8.3 metre, outboard powered search and rescue RIB Cape Rose; the 9.8 metre, waterjet propelled work / lines boat Jetwave Nelson Point; the 19.2 metre Berkeley Class pilot boat Genesis; and the 26.5 metre commercial fishing boat / offshore service vessel / passenger charter boat Poppa G.

0

Article Ship ahoy! Using AIS data

by LuxSpace Sàrl - published on 30 January 2019

How LUXSPACE uses AIS messages to monitor worldwide shipping traffic

0

Video Simulation of the Collision of Norwegian Warship HNoMS Helge Ingstad

published on 15 November 2019

The following is the video presentation from a joint investigation into the Nov. 8, 2018 collision of HNoMS Helge Ingstad and the merchant tanker Sola TS. Video from Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) and the Defence Accident Investigation Board Norway (DAIBN)

0

Opinion What you can´t see still hurt you

published on 13 December 2020

This article was originally published on Baird Maritime (link below)
When a pilot is berthing a ship with the aid of tugs, it sometimes happens that the ship lands heavily and suffers minor damage. More commonly in my experience, it also happens that the crew discover a large dent for which they cannot account ...

0

Video Maritime Pilot Training VI - Pilot Ladder Training

published on 12 May 2021

Training video VI on the correct use of the pilot ladder

0