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Freight Operations



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When the ship is at sea, it is easy for the officers and crew to settle into a comfortable routine with fairly regular work hours.  Once in port, however, the marathon work session begins, and the overtime pay begins to accumulate.  The officers and crew are typically involved in around the clock supervision of the freight loading and unloading.  The typical port stop took 12-36 hours.  Although the stevedores (also known as longshoremen) perform the actual loading, unloading and securing of the containers, the officers and crew of the ship are responsible for making sure that everything is done properly.

Containers of freight are exchanged at the port in Miami, where I joined the ship. Huge gantry cranes onshore efficiently loaded and unloaded the containers. The small yellow onboard cranes were positioned to minimize interference with freight operations.

While in port, the officers have various responsibilities related to supervising freight operations.  The First Mate has the greatest responsibility, as he is responsible for making sure that the ship is loaded correctly to ensure the ships stability.  His responsibilities were tested in Freeport, when he had to insist that some of the newly loaded containers be removed in order to insure the safety of the ship.

Container handling in most ports was done with the huge gantry cranes that can often be seen at seaports.  The Katrin S. was also equipped with small onboard cranes, but these are only used when the efficient shore-based equipment is not available.

A container ship stores its cargo both above deck and in weather-tight holds below deck.  After the above-deck containers are off-loaded in port, the gantry cranes remove the massive hatch covers from the deck.  These are lifted off and placed on the pier while the containers in the holds are accessed.  Usually only a couple of hatch covers need to be off the ship at any one time.

Some of the containers were refrigerated, and needed to be plugged in to ships power in order stay cool.  The refrigerated containers needed to be located in specific locations above the deck so that they were accessible to electric power and to allow them to be periodically checked during the voyage by the crew.

One evening, the stevedores took a dinner break just after all the containers in a hold had been offloaded, but before any new ones had been added.  I climbed down into the hold to check it out.  It was amazing how deep the hold was.  It seemed much deeper from my perspective at the bottom than it did when I was on top looking down.

In most of the ports we visited, security guards were stationed on-board to make sure that no stowaways came aboard.  Sextant (section-end indicator)

Continue to the next section of Freighter Bum: Voyage Photographs.



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