From: Panama – Balboa
Via: USA – Honolulu
Destination: Chile – Valdivia
Date: March 2015 – June 2015
Preparing for departure
TOS was both operational manager and crewing manager for this ship delivery project. The Bremen Hunter was to begin its voyage from the anchorage of Panama City. Mobilization for this project was not only to ready the ship for towing, but also to re-flag it with all necessary audits for class and flag state. Also during this period, minor repairs and deficiencies were addressed. Plans for towing were made; to be carried out on both barges upon arrival of Bremen Hunter in Hawaii were planned. In the early evening of 28th of March, Bremen Hunter departed from Panama City bound for Barbers Point Harbour, Island of O`ahu, Hawaii.
During the voyage to Barbers Point Harbour, the crew continued with maintenance and prepared for the double towing job from Hawaii to Valdivia, Chile. Additionally, all obligatory drills and paperwork were completed in preparation of a U.S. Coastguard inspection. We had pleasant weather on this first leg and arrived the morning of 17th of April. After clearance by customs we underwent a full inspection, including a fire drill by U.S. Coastguard.
Ready the barges for towing
Our preparations during the trip paid off and we received a glowing inspection report with no remarks. The next days in Barbers Point Harbour were used to ready the barges for towing. In the first days, a diving team cleaned the hull of both barges. Due to having been laid up for a long period there was much growth. The barges had to be re-ballasted. We had to lift and inspect the towing bridles that rested in the water and at the sea bottom. There was no opportunity to moor the ship in that shallow position and a mobile crane didn’t have sufficient reach. We managed to lift these chain bridles with a tugger winch and a couple of mooring lines. After the entire towing gear was ready to connect to the barges, inspection was carried out and a warranty surveyor gave the approval, it was just a matter of time to receive the provisions and fuel needed. After receiving provisions, the client had arranged for us to bunker MDO on high seas from a tanker. Saturday morning, on the 25th of April, we departed with the assistance of harbour tugs. After thanking the pilot and the assisting tugs, we paid out a towing wire and set course to rendezvous position with the bunker tanker.
The next morning, around 08:00LT, we arrived at the bunker tanker; one of their crew members came aboard and we discussed the whole operation. None of us had worked in this way before with a bunker tanker, so it was good to have a meeting before we started the operation. The bunker tanker threw out a bunker hose and by towing it to the Bremen Hunter a connection was made. Once the hose was secured and connected, we continued sailing with minimum steering speed at a distance of one cable from the tanker. The chief engineer was transferred by zodiac to the tanker to check quantity and agreement of the procedure. After the chief engineer had returned, bunkering started. This operation was finished at 16:00LT and, after the final checks and agreement of the bunkered quantity, we disconnected the bunker hose and thanked the bunker tanker. The whole operation went smoothly.
From the island of Tahiti to the Eastern Islands
We set course to the island of Tahiti were we had the possibility to bunker in the port of Papeete according to the B.A. pilot books. TOS consulted our agent and then we received the instruction to disconnect and give away the barges to local tugs. We arrived 13th of May in the early morning on the road of Papeete. For the pilots it was an unusual job to assist a tugboat with two barges. Our crew was ready; we had already discussed the job and procedure in different scenarios during the voyage. Both tow wires were shorted and we towed the closest barge in to the port with the assistance of a stern steering tug. The other barge was brought in by the harbour tugs. In the afternoon we bunkered for the remainder of the voyage. The next morning it took some time to retrieve the towing bridle of the second barge because the harbour tug had dropped it in the water after mooring alongside this barge. When this job was done, they gave the pennant wire to the harbour tug so that we could connect the other barge and tow it out with assistance of a little harbour tug. Once offshore, we reconnected the second barge and said goodbye to the pilot and the tugs.
Monitoring the weather, currents and advice of a weather station, we decided to set course to the ESE passing Pitcairn Island and later to the Eastern Islands. The weather situation was changing rapidly as we travelled to increasingly higher southern latitudes. We decided to steer an eastern course as long as possible to still reach our destination and therefore profit as long as possible from the good weather in our area of transit. A couple of days before we passed the Eastern Islands, the tow wire of the second barge broke in the night shift. We retrieved the wire and the next morning we made a new eye on the steel wire and connected it again to the second barge just before noon.
After passing the Eastern Islands, the air temperature dropped, reaching around 10 degrees Celsius during the daytime. The crew had been wearing summer outfits during the trip so far, but now even the toughest guys changed their clothes for something warmer to wear. On Monday morning, the 8th of June at 07:00LT, we arrived at the pilot station. We dropped anchor in the Bay of Corral and in the evening one of the barges was picked up by harbour tugs, the second barge a day later.
The crew had a pleasant and safe voyage and
their flight back home to Europe was then planned.
Voyage report of a Chief Mate