A day in port
As promised finally an impression of a random day of work in port. The day for a second officer actually starts at midnight. The 3rd Officer tells me some details about the cargo operation and things I have to know. I wish him a good rest and I can still hear him preparing some food in the galley for a few minutes. After that the ship gets very quiet, it’s only me and my sailor on deck keeping watch. The water around the ship is smooth like a mirror and in the distance I can see the red flashing lights on the high buildings of the city. A dog is barking far away at the end of the pier. Other than that, the only sound is the continuous rumbling of the engines and the ventilation.I really appreciate this serene atmosphere and it is great to work during the night, there is no interruption of any kind. I go to the bridge where I have to prepare our next voyage plan. It is a list of points which we will pass, along with relevant information about ocean current, tide, coast radio stations, other traffic, navigation marks like light houses, distance to the shore and of course the distance to the next port. Because we mostly do voyages for the large oil companies we have to comply with their rules. So my voyage plan goes into great detail and I am busy preparing for a few hours.
Every now and then I make a round over deck to check on the discharging process of the cargo. The pumps are running and I adjust a valve from time to time. I calculate the progress every hour and keep the logbook. The four hours of my watch are passing quickly and the first officer takes over from me at four o’clock. My bed is waiting and even though I am used to working the night shift, it is still a pleasure to finally go to sleep.
In the morning the situation on the ship is very different. After my breakfast / lunch I prepare for a busy afternoon. The cargo operation is about to be completed and the Chief Officer, who is in charge, is present to prepare all the paperwork. My work domain is outside; the pumps have to be stopped in time and I make sure the tanks are really empty. After adjusting the pipes (spaghetti) and valves on deck the compressors are started to blow some hot gas through the lines in order to get all the liquid cleared.
People come and go. Customs, coast guard, agent, loading master and just before departure the pilot. He will assist the captain to sail the ship safely outbound to the sea. The sailors prepare the ship for sea; they are experienced and know exactly what to do. I assist them here and there and make sure nothing is overseen. And I also prepare the bridge, switch all the equipment on and, most important, make some fresh coffee!
‘All crew standby forward and aft stations’. The order is given by the captain through the portable radio. I am standing at the very front of the ship and tell the two sailors let go all the lines. Slowly the ship is moving away from the pier assisted by a tug boat. When all the mooring ropes are stowed, there is time to relax, enjoy the beautiful weather and look at the harbor scenery passing by. I sit just above the bow at the most forward spot, just as in the famous scene in the movie ‘Titanic’ A moment like that makes my day! As soon as we leave the harbor I have to go to the bridge and take over command from the captain. I am steering the ship and behind us, the high city buildings get smaller and smaller. We are at sea again!