01 AUG 2008
By Captain Bruce Morris
Nortas P&I Marine Services Pte Ltd. Singapore
An early start
On thinking back to his first visit to Singapore, as a junior ship’s officer in 1965, Captain Morris reflects on the fact that the bridge and highway are in a position where his vessel once lay at anchor, loading cargo from wooden tongkans (motorised wooden Chinese junks).
In 1965, at the time that Singapore became independent from Malaysia, Singapore’s total land area was 581.5 square kilometres. In May 2008 the total land area has grown by 20 per cent to just over 699 square kilometres. Much of the reclaimed land was previously anchorage space for both small and large vessels. Due to the reclamation of vessel anchorages, some of the remaining anchorage spaces plus the newly allocated spaces have become dangerously overcrowded at times, with ships of all types and sizes.
In the first four months of 2008, an average of 366 vessels called into Singapore each day, for either cargo, bunkering or ship repair operations. In addition to this figure, a further 100 plus vessels per day transit the Singapore Strait without stopping in Singapore. Numbers of this magnitude can lead to many “close quarters situations” over the entire length of the Strait.
The Nortas day actually started at 0145 hrs this morning, when Captain Morris received a phone call from the master of a Gard entered vessel, advising that on his approach to the Changi Special Purposes Anchorage his vessel had made contact with another vessel already lying at anchor, in what the master described as a “very crowded anchorage”. Both vessels had received hull damage; however, the master advised that there was no pollution or personal injury from the incident. The attendance of a hull surveyor was requested as soon as possible to assess damages to both vessels. Prior to arranging attendance on board, contact had been made with Gard Arendal, to ensure that the FD&D cover was actually with Gard.
Arrangements were made immediately for Sio Beng Huat, Senior Technical Surveyor of Morris Marine to proceed to the vessel. Following his arrival on board, and his initial assessment of damages to both vessels, he calls Captain Morris to update him on the situation.
Containers, containers, containers
Singapore now holds the “No 1 Port of the World“ status for container movements, with in excess of 26 million TEUs handled in 2007. With such a high number of containers being handled, Nortas is called on a regular basis to appoint surveyors on container damage surveys.
Singapore is one of the largest oil refining ports of the world and the average number of vessels calling for bunkers is in excess of 2,500 vessels per month.
Catamarans, heart surgery and off-spec gasoil
Following Anthony’s return from his morning meeting regarding container damage, he gives a briefing to Maran, who has been requested to attend to the physical devanning of two containers where damage to the contents is suspected.
Over the lunch break we have been advised that the chief engineer of a Gard-entered vessel presently in a Vietnamese port is being brought to Singapore for heart surgery. Due to the first-class medical and hospital facilities available in Singapore, it is not uncommon for seafarers to be brought here from surrounding countries, to ensure they receive adequate attention. In this case, Gard has agreed that the wife of the chief engineer be brought to Singapore from Greece, and the administration ladies of Nortas are left to organise hotel accommodation and all other support arrangements. The time required to organise suitable accommodation in Singapore can vary dramatically, depending on what exhibition or conference is running at the time.
At 1630hrs, a call is received from the master of a Gard-entered tanker, currently loading on one of the refinery berths. We have been advised that loading operations have been stopped due to an alleged “off spec” of the gasoil cargo. The attendance of an experienced tanker master/surveyor is requested. Captain Viraf Chinoy, who had just returned in the morning from a tanker vetting assignment in Korea, is immediately briefed on the matter and proceeds to the vessel at Jurong Island, after the administration ladies have arranged, through the vessel agent, a pass for his attendance on board.
The greater emphasis on security post 9/11 has resulted in entry into any of the petrochemical facilities requiring a more “in depth” vetting procedure prior to access being granted. Despite the lengthy formalities, Viraf arrives on board at 1745 hrs and following his initial investigation, reports to the office, which in turn reports to Arendal on this latest development of the day.
Close of business … almost
By 2000 hrs discussions with lawyers have been completed and the claims handler dealing with the case in Arendal has been briefed on all related matters.
On leaving the lawyers’ office and passing Boat Quay, it is noted that the large wooden tongkans of the 1960s era laden with cargo have been replaced by a small number of wooden junks. These craft are now eagerly engaged in transporting tourist passengers along the Singapore River to see the lights of the city, passing the shop-houses, which have now been changed into restaurants and bars. Passing the statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781-1826), known as the founder of Singapore, we reflect on the Singapore scene of 2008, as compared with the Singapore scene known by Raffles. Much has changed. The Singapore marine industry of 2008 is far removed from the “Raffles age of sail.”
With thoughts now focused on the problems of the day, and what may lie ahead, Anthony agrees to take over the 24-hour phone monitoring for the evening, knowing that it will be a rare night if the phone remains silent.
As correspondents for Gard in Singapore, we know that each day will bring new challenges, with situations requiring our attention and input, for the benefit of all concerned. One of the most attractive parts of our role in Singapore is the fact that every particular intervention, although initially appearing similar, is quite different in its nature and complexity. The diversity of the various tasks entrusted to the staff of Nortas is the very item which teaches us to expect the unexpected, and which fills our working time with great interest. The word “boredom” does not enter into the equation.