Rewritten onboard M/T Ek-Star September 2010
Photo from www.termaloma.com. © Terje Moen. Thanks to Olav Moen
M/T Margaron is an edible oil tanker on 1400 DWT built 1970 in Erlenbach/Main, Germany
I signed on M/T Margaron in Karlshamn 10th of November 1993. I arrived to Karlshamn with the train and I had to go and buy me a new " Entertainment center" before going to the ship. Yes, we remember the drama from when I and my friend went to Bangkok. My entertainment centre capsized and sunk somewhere over the South of Europe.
I need music so I went to Domus department store to look for a new entertainment centre. I bought a stereo, of course, not as good as the one I lost on my flight to Bangkok. I also bought 2 CD's, Just D and Stereo MC's.
Domus department store was very close to the port so I was soon onboard. When I arrived to the ship the 2nd Officer was on watch discharging Soya oil.
- Hello, I said, How's life?
- I'm in a hurry, this valve and that valve, bye bye! And he took off.
This was the shortest introduction I ever had on a new ship but we managed to discharge our oil. OK, this ship wasn't so hard to get familiarised with. I think we had 8 tanks or something like that.
We loaded Soya oil in Hamburg and Ghent most of the time and we discharged in Karlshamn. I also remember that we loaded fish oil in Hanstholm or Hirtshals in Denmark and we discharged in Hamburg.
Fish oil, the worst I have experienced. When the tank was empty I went down to have a check. Damn! It was like when I was sprayed with teargas in France. Unbelievable, I had to go back up on deck with running eyes and a burning sensation all over my skin. A pre wash was needed before it was possible to enter the tanks.
Yes, joining Margaron in Karlshamn was real nice. Gloom and grey as long as I could see and cold. Real nice to come back from Bangkok to run in to this weather.
It was a pretty good life onboard, well, good is maybe not the word I'm looking for. It was a very nice crew and we had fun and I liked the ship even though it was darn cold.
I remember one day when I meet our Captain in the stairs he asked me:
- Do you have any other clothes to wear?
- Important, especially when we come to foreign ports it's important to look nice.
- No, this is what I have, I said.
When we came to Hamburg 17th of December 1993 our Chief Officer went ashore and he never came back. We called our agent and the Police to report our missing Chief Officer. When they called to his wife she only said:
- Oh no, not again.
Captain asked me if I wanted to sign on as Chief Officer.
- No, I don't have any nice looking clothes to wear, I said.
- Never mind the f@cking clothes, the important thing is to know the job.
Well, when I signed on as Chief Officer it was bye bye good days. No more cold oils, now we started to load shit like Acid fat, stearin, Palm oil and cooking oil. The cooking oil was discharged straight to bottles and then the
bottles were delivered to the shops.
On most of the ship with pump room the pumps are at the same level as the tank bottom but here we had the pumps on deck level.
What's the difference? Well, the maximum height you can suck liquid is about 9,8m.
When the pump is at bottom level there will be pressure on the suction side from the tank. So when the pump is at deck level there have to be vacuum on the suction side on order to suck up the cargo from the tank.
Well, When we recirculation the cleaning mix the mix passing a heat exchanger and we keep the mix at about 80°C. So now all of you that have been up on Mount Everest understand the problem. Anyway, all of you experienced boiling egg on Mount Everest should understand it.
Low pressure and the water starts to boil at 70°C or something like that. Well, when sucking hot water from the tank we have vacuum in the pump and thus we're only sucking steam from the tank. Then we have to watch out so we're not running out of water in the slop tank. Sometimes we just stop the recirculation and rinse the tanks we have cleaned with caustic and give time for the mix to cool down.
Yes I know, a lot of blah- blah and technical stuff. I know that I'm not good in explaining this stuff, but for a Deck Officer on a tanker it's important.
(Except for John Ballong, he has the new education. According to his education it's not important to know the difference between screw and centrifugal pumps because on the new tankers there is not any pump housing)
So you understand that the cargo tanks had to be clean before we could load the cooking oil in to them.
Every one using a candle knows what stearin is and acid fat is something very bad. All these cargoes had to be heated. So it was heavy duty tank cleaning after every discharging. I was wondering where the good days were gone with Soya and corn oil. We called them cold oil because no heating was required and tank cleaning was like a walk in the park.
When we discharged we had steam in the double bottom that we turned on just before the cargo tank was empty and then the AB's went down the tank to sweep the bottom of the tanks with squeegee. When the tank was empty I opened for steam in to the tank and closed the hatch. I steamed the tank for about 10 minutes. We had to be careful because we only had a few m³ of technical fresh water to make steam and we didn't want to run out of water for the boiler.
If I was lucky the steam had melted the rest of the oil sitting under deck and on the bulkheads so the oil had run down to the bottom of the tank making it a wee bit easier to clean the tank.
After departure the cleaning started. We had 10 tanks and it took about 24 hours to clean the tanks. Running up and down inspecting the tanks and changing the position of the tank cleaning machines. When we were finished we had to steam all the cargo lines and pumps. Well, it was nice with a long nap after that. I slept many hours after the tank cleaning.
Back then I was young so it was no problem running up and down the tanks. Hmm, I think it did wonders for my good looks.
Yeah, I was young so sometimes we took the time to go ashore for some fun. We took those few opportunities we got but mostly we had to stay onboard. In Karlshamn we had time to go ashore to buy the stuff we needed. It was mostly snus and other things we needed. It took us about 10 minutes to walk to the city from the jetty. City??!! Well, a small town and there is not very much exciting happening in Karlshamn so even if we have had the time it would have been a waste of time trying to find a party.
Of course, we knew the Surveyors very well in Karlshamn and if we needed anything we could just call them and they did their best to help out.
Sometimes we had to clean with caustic soda. Then we mixed hot water and caustic soda in the slop tank and recirculation of the mix. We sucked the mix from the slop tank to the tank cleaning machines. Then, instead of pumping the water ashore we pumped it back to the slop tank and thus the Caustic mix was recirculated. So we used 2 pumps when we did the tank cleaning.
During the winter it was very cold to be on deck. Snow, rain or ice with strong winds made it easy not to laugh. We discharged in Naantali, Finland on New Year’s eve. It was around 30°C below 0.
We had discharged linseed oil from 1P/S and had to go down to inspect the cargo tanks. I came out on deck in Flip flops, T-shirt and
shorts. All the people working on the jetty were dressed in winter cloths and when they spotted me coming out on deck they could not believe their eyes.
- Who is this Viking?
We discharged stearin and palm oil in Naantali so I knew that it would be one of those nice 24 hours tank cleaning operations after departure. After leaving Naantali we had a few hours with Pilot through the Finnish archipelago. I wanted to complete as much as possible during these hours. The sea was covered with thick ice and as soon as we came out in the Baltic with the strong winds it turned very nasty on deck. Yes, this is nothing that I miss.
Sometimes we loaded "Jew oil " in Karlshamn for USA. This was some holy stuff the Jews used during some religious feast. So before loading the tanks had to be inspected by the Surveyors and then there was a rabbi flying in from USA to bless our cargo tanks.
We lightered this oil to a Stolt ship in Rotterdam. Well, as no surprise the rabbi turned up and blessed the cargo hose used for transferring the oil. So we were waiting while the rabbi was running around on the Stolt ship blessing the old wreck and their cargo tanks.
There is, or was, I don't know if it still exists today. But they mad margarine and they needed oil. So we used to discharge and I always had the flag of Skåne as the guest flag.
The guys working in the port were very happy and they stopped on the way to the ship to have a look at our guest flag. They were standing there pointing at the flag smiling.
- You have hoisted the flag of Skåne!
- Of course!
The only one complaining was the Captain.
- It's an insult to the Swedish flag
And he went on and on about the Swedish flag.
- Interesting, but I have to dash off, I'm very busy.
Mostly we loaded in Rotterdam and Hamburg and discharged in Karlshamn. We were chartered for Karlshamns AB. Karlshamns AB is one of the world's leading manufacturers of high value-added specialty vegetable fats.
Karlshamns delivers specialty fats all over the world and is the market leader in the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe. The food industry is Karlshamns largest customer segment and Sweden its largest single market. They make butter, ice cream & chocolate etc.
I signed off 26th of January 1994 and I was off to Asia. I was feed up with India so I choose to go to Nepal via Thailand instead.