Vessel Geysir - ASPHALT COMMANDER's end has me thinking about old ships

<P>Although we all haven’t suffered a “ship of pain” sometime in our career, many of us have. I am intrigued to hear the seastories of those endured.</P>
<P>A few come to mind for me. First are all of the thankfully long gone “Sealift” class tankers. The stories I have heard about those make me wonder how anybody managed to sign off of them with their careers intact. Next are any number of decepid and horribly unseaworthy fish processors working in Alaska and from personal experience on them, how any of those ships managed to escape burning and sinking with all hands is a mystery of the universe. Lastly there is the subterranean fleet of merchant vessels sailing under the US flag like the <EM>Asphalt Commander</EM> which frankly even Cambodia wouldn’t allow to sail under their ensign. Any dear readers here ever hear of the good <EM>[B]vessel Geysir[/B]</EM>?<br><br>I hope this will start the ball rolling for what could be a very interesting discussion indeed.<br><br><br>cheers</P>

In my first five years of sailing in the United States Merchant Marine
as a deck officer
I have worked on three commercial ships. Two were tankers and the most
recent a Roll On / Roll Off vessel. Their suboptimal condition
resulting from long hard years at sea has had a formative influence on
my career so far.<br><br>The first ship was a Suez Max tanker of
136,000 DWT. She had been built by Mitsui shipbuilding of Japan in 1974
making her 8 years my senior. Of the three ships she had been cared for
the best, a testament to her 25 years sailing under the American
ensign. On an interesting side note, and as a dating method she was
featured in the original film <span style=“font-style: italic;]King Kong</span> as the giant apes’ transport to NYC.<br><br>Unfortunately
for me her days of running Alaskan North Slope crude oil abruptly came
to an end shortly after I had joined her. My first voyage became her
last as we sailed west from the United States to the scrapping yards of
Asia Minor. It wasn’t all bad though. Being an older ship she had been
built large. Large accommodations, large officers mess, large pool. And
the company was top notch providing as much in the way of diversion and
entertainment on board as possible. An important thing for a voyage to
Singapore that lasted 24 days.<br><a onblur=“try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=“]<img style=“margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer;” src=“” alt=”” id=“BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5208411650221344642” border=“0]The
second ship was a chemical tanker of 48,075 DWT. Having been built just
one year shy of my first birthday she was slightly younger but her age
showed in a multitude of rust, stress cracks, and wasted deck
piping.The sheer amount of cargo piping and headers for the 43
segregated cargo tanks created a maze of steel running down the entire
cargo block.<br><br>With the addition of 43 individual electric
hydraulic Framo cargo pumps, inert gas system piping, an efficient
Pneumatic stripping systems, Shand & Jurs tank level indicators,
center line fixed tank washing machines, a longitudinal electrical
tunnel cutting the deck in half a maintenance disaster was built right
into her design.<br><br>Like the crude oil tanker this ship was also
operated by an American oil major for most of her life. Only recently
had she been sold and it soon became obvious to her new unionized crew
that the former owner had been fiscally conservative at her ship yards
opting out of any large life span lengthening expenditures.This lack of
maintenance on a very specialized ship led to a hazardous situation
from an operators point of view. During my six months on board split
between two hitches, I remember watching the cargo control board and
having neither the S&J nor the less reliable back up float gauge
correspond with the MMC reading during critical cargo operations.<a onblur=“try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=“]<img style=“margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 320px; height: 240px;” src=“” alt=”” id=“BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5208503170003283122” border="0]<span style=“font-size: 85%;]*As
a side note for those to never set foot on a tanker - when moving a
liquid cargo on or off a ship several methods are available for
accounting for the amount of product in a cargo tank. Radar systems are
among the more modern and accurate but on my older ship a spring loaded
tape with a float resting on the liquids surface would send an analog
signal to a needle gauge in the cargo control room. To back this up was
another float system but this was much less accurate. The safest and
surest measure was to have the Able Bodied seaman standing by at the
tanks ullage cap with a hermetic sounding tape or MMC.</span><br><a onblur=“try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=“]<img style=“margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer; width: 337px; height: 252px;” src=“” alt=”” id=“BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5208505302513372802” border="0]<br><span style=“font-size: 100%;]Not
a big deal if you are topping off a product tanker but when
simultaneously loading and discharging multiple products with only two
or three working MMCs and three crew on deck it was difficult to keep
accurate flow rates without making the crew do laps around the 600 foot
ship all night long. But doing laps, and abusing a few cadets along the
way was the only way to get the job done.<br><br>It was during my first
trip on the chemical tanker that I realized how the ship was as old as
most of the officers I was working with. It was evident in the look of
amazement a vetting inspectors showed the Captain when he saw the
crew’s training synopsis record. The vetting inspector (A third party
hired to evaluate the quality of the ships operation in minute detail)
was a Master Mariner from India with decades of experience on similar
ships. He was astounded because at the time the oldest member of the
deck department, the Captain, was a mere 28 years. The Chief Mate was
27, and the junior officers including myself between 23 and 26. Our
cumulative experience on this ship didn’t add up to what was normally
encountered in sea time and experience for a chemical tanker’s Captain.
We still passed the vetting, barely.<br><br>After two trips of
wrestling with inadequate gauges, bursting pipes, and leaking low point
drains along with the pleasure of working with naphtha, para xylene,
methyl ethyl ketone, and a host of other petrochemicals I found myself
looking for a different and hopefully newer place of employment. As
luck would have it I found a fleet of car carriers that include several
recent new builds trading internationally. I was elated to be joining a
different ship and in my naivety thought how wonderful it would be to
worry no more about oil leaks, cargo spills, and carcinogens.<br><br>When
I joined my new home in the port of Houston I was not excited to find
out that I had joined the oldest ship in the fleet and probably one of
the oldest Roll On / Roll Off ships afloat. As I would learn, this
particular vessel was a prototype for the modern day car carriers in
world wide service. She was designed with hydraulically lifted decks
maximizing cargo flexibility. This was a new approach in the 1970s to
moving mechanized and rolling cargoes. She would be used in trade
routes all over the world, most interestingly carrying paper products
from the Pacific Northwest, including rough timber to Japan in the
early 1980’s.<br><br>Much like my last ship she too had seen several
years of neglect and the problems were compiling quickly when a new
operations company had taken over. The hundreds of hydraulic cylinders
that moved the lifting decks up and down and secured them in place were
leaking profusely. It took the crew two years to stem the flow and keep
the oil from damaging cargo.<br><br>The mooring winches forward would
frequently blow out putting hydraulic oil onto the fore deck and nearly
over the side on several occasions. Miracle red hand patches kept us
calling on our ports without delay. The accommodations would rain
inside on the engineers quarters any time there was rain outside. The
bridge and engine room had issues I’ll decline to mention in this
forum. </span><br><br>Built in 1978 she turned 30 this year and was just recently sold to a foreign operator and<a onblur=“try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=“]<img style=“margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer;” src=“” alt=”” id=“BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5208504534626807842” border="0]
re-flagged back to her original Norwegian colors. I with the rest of
the crew were somewhat relieved to pass on her mountain of issues to a
larger crew with a ship yard in her near future.<br><br>Hopefully my next ship will be a little newer.

Deepwater,<br><br>I myself sailed ont he Marine Columbia in 2001 and stood on the spot Jeff Bridges (also known as the Big Lebowski) stook looking down at the tank that held King Kong. Having later gone down into those tanks I did not doubt they were big enough to carry Kong himself.