Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ladies on Deck!

I live on a peninsula. One block to my left is the beach; one block to the right is Africa’s deepest port, the Port of Lobito. It’s a nice little bay- very narrow (I could swim across in half an hour) and very deep. The Luanda port is significantly reducing its activities in order for renovation and modernization, so Lobito will soon see a lot more water traffic. Those of us who aren’t in the oil industry look at those big ships passing at all hours and think, “What the heck is on those things?” Chris, the oil rig guy who had us to his house for Thanksgiving, invited Suzie, Angela and me to take a tour of the port yard and even finagled a tour of an “unusual-sized cargo” ship!

The yard is huge. All of the oil companies have little trailers there that function as offices. We stopped off at Chris’ company’s trailer to gear up with hard hats and protective eyewear then headed to the Chevron trailer for work boots. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to sign our lives away on a liability agreement. An oversight, perhaps?

Scattered all over the yard are HUGE oil rigs, platforms, pipelines in the process of being constructed, waiting to be towed out to sea. I can see these things from my front balcony; they look big from there, but up close they are massive. After seeing the scale of this equipment, I must say that I am quite impressed with the engineering that goes into those productions. For example, we saw a big tower that will be lowered onto the ocean floor, at which point a vacuum will come on and burrow itself into the ground for drilling. Amazing.

After a short tour, Chris took us to the German unusual-sized cargo ship. The ship is specially designed for large and heavy cargo that does not fit on traditional container cargo ships. Chris had spoken with the German manager to get the tour, but the German had apparently forgotten to tell anyone else, so there was some confusion when we got on board. The crew was partly German but mostly Filipino. Either way, I think they were happy to have three foreign women on board! They go out for 3 months at a time, and then have a month off. The ship was headed to Singapore, a trip which takes about 17 days. They were hauling a helipad.

The ship is HUGE. The captain said it was built in 1989 and is not state-of-the-art, but to our uneducated eyes it was quite modern-looking. They certainly had better communication abilities (phone, internet) than whatever we have in Lobito. The ship was also very clean- spotless, even!

They took us all around the ship, even down into the cargo hold, which Chris thought was a bit of a liability since we had to climb a ladder down three stories. But it was fun! I will post pictures at the “My Pictures” link to the right when the connection here is a little more stable (it's not letting me right now).

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