"Flexirules" on oil tankers.

4th August 2008, 20:05
Only sailed in one oily tanker, but flexirules really wore me down. They designated officers smokeroom as "smoking" area whilst pumping cargo, though it had a door leading out onto open deck (that was usually blue with fumes when pumping). In radio room, however, WITHOUT door onto deck, I was not even allowed to use a soldering iron for fear of explosion!

One afternoon, alongside VLCC pumping oil (crude) from them to us (At Galveston bar), captain gave me fistfull of messages to "get off immediately." Thinking nothng of it, I immediately got on the US coast station, followed by French coast sation & was finishing off (three hours later) with Portishead. When on last message, an officer came in & pushed an SLT flowers message in front of me. Halfway through this, captain came in & looked over my shoulder & immediately went mad - "Are you trying to blow us all to smithereens? we're pumping cargo!" Naturally, I quickly switched off, but overcome with confusion, I said "YOU gave me a pile of messages three hours ago to get off immediately - what about them?!

"They were company business!" he snapped & cleared off. From which I deduced that it was OK to get "blown to smithereens" on company business, but not on a private message.

Electrician had similar problems, "this is not intrinsically safe, that is not intrinsically safe etc." One day (when pumping), he noticed a cracked glass on a deck light & turned it off only to be met with immediate demands to turn it on again. "Not intrisically safe," he said, "Get that light back on & don't come the sea lawyer with me!" was the reply.

Another time, (alongside & pumping) I was told to fix the radar, but not to turn it on or use a soldering iron - I said that it was beyond my capabilities, so shore service was called. When they arrived & fault was explained (by captain) - I stuck my oar in & said "You can't turn it on & you can't use a soldering iron, by the way!" To my delight, the boss man (Galveston, Texas) just said "Nice meetin' you cap!" stuck his baseball cap on head and made for door. He was immediately brought back & told he could turn it on as long as bridge doors were kept closed & it would be OK to use the soldering iron as well!

These flexi-rules really put me off oily tankers - was it always like that, or was I just unlucky?


4th August 2008, 20:39
Hi Bob

I think you were unfortunate. I sailed with Caltex (1954-58) exclusively on tankers, of course, and with P&O 1959-64 including some tanker time.

The rules generally seemed logical and safe - we never blew up, anyway - and I never heard similar complaints to yours from R/O's or Electrical Officers.


4th August 2008, 21:15
Hi Ian,
Thanks for reply. I could appreciate the safety rules if they wer strictly adhered to, but I could never appreciate the flexibility, such as MSGs OK, other messages not. Officers smoking in an area with a door to open deck OK, but me using soldering iron in radio room "highly dangerous" etc etc.

Expected me to repair equipment without soldering iron & not even switching equipment on, but allowing shore maintenance to do these things because if they couldn't, they just went away. I might have found it easier to deal with if we were engaged on ocean voyages, but spent the whole six months (apart from getting there from builders yard), on lightering duties Galveston bar - Houston & back, month in month out. (This was all 31 years ago).


K urgess
4th August 2008, 21:23
Never used the radio gear while loading or discharging on tankers.
In places like Rastanura etc., smoking was only allowed in designated smoking areas which was usually the officer's and crews smoke rooms.
Nobody ever stopped me using a soldering iron during these times.

4th August 2008, 23:03
In the 1950's in BP, when alongside, we were'nt allowed to smoke anywhere on the ship whilst loading or unloading - they had "Smoking Sheds" on the jetty!

5th August 2008, 07:35
It was the "soldering iron prohibited" bit that got me most. On one occasion, the radar picture was just a bright dot in the centre. I took the rotating coils off the CRT neck & could actually see a broken connection wire, but was not allowed to re-solder it until we had got clear of the oil terminal. But I always (& still) feel that the dangers of a number of them smoking in the "designated" room (with door to deck) put us all in greater danger than a soldering iron, that was no more dangerous than a smoothing iron or a kettle, neither of which were banned!


5th August 2008, 09:18
I sailed on tankers for much of my seagoing life, crude carriers, product carriers and chemical carriers. In several companies. I never ever heard of a soldering iron ban and to be honest it makes no sense to me at all. Fair enough anything used outside on deck has to be intrinsically safe, and smoking was a definate no no (on pain of the next flight out with some companies), but a soldering iron inside the accomodation ?

I think you dropped on a queer one there.

King Ratt
5th August 2008, 10:14
At a HODs meeting on RFA Orangeleaf in 1986 much grief was being expressed about the 3rd Mate's use of a non intrinsically safe torch having been used on the tank deck. The ship was at sea doing the Armilla patrol. I enquired if any action would be taken over the test firings of Chaff rockets which were done frequently and were they "intrinsically safe". I think the word "flippant" was used in the reply.
I have not heard of soldering irons being banned though.

5th August 2008, 10:32
Hi Bob the Shipbuilder ...

I don't know if you were ever on any of the B&C tankers ? I did time on the Hector Heron where as far as I can remember, smoking was permitted in the after accommodation block; in the Officer's smoke room, and somewhere for the (Indian) crew. I also do recall it was permitted in the midships accommodation as well, but can't remember where. Certainly no-one, whether it be the relieved or relieving R/O's or the HQ Electronics Superintendents ever said anything about use of soldering irons !

I did hear about someone joining in Bandar Mahshahr (sp?) who got to the top of the gangway by the manifold, started to pull a Zippo from his pocket, upon which the whole place dived for cover. Apocryphal ? probably ....

5th August 2008, 10:59
Does anyone remember the drill at Saltend Jetty, where the cook would have to take the food and utensils to a galley ashore in order to provide the meals.
I remember loading clean oils on a pre war built coastal tanker at Fawley, just as the expiditer came aboard, an overload caused the generator to emit a shower of sparks from the funnel which showered over the deck, the expiditer quickly returned back up the gangway. The diesel motor that powered the windlass on this little vessel was starter by a cartridge.


K urgess
5th August 2008, 11:49
All the tankers I was on lighters were banned. Matches were free issue but all lighters had to be handed in if you had one.
Lighters can drop from pockets and ignite, safety matches don't.

5th August 2008, 11:49
Thanks for replies. I see that others came across "flexirules." It was not a B & C tanker, but one of a famous company with a yellow funnel with a blue V on it.. We did eventually have an explosion at the Houston oil terminal, but I don't know how it came about. We had just finished pumping & were disconnecting everything. I was in smokeroom with purser when there was suddenly a dull "boom" - immediately, the room darkened despite it being a bright sunny day. We looked out of after windows to see a huge mushroom cloud of black smoke shot with flames rising out of the funnel. The tugs dragged us off without waiting for us to be untied & shoved us into the nearest backwater & cleared off. No-one was hurt & there was no subsequent fire. The boiler had blown up (steam cargo pump). We remained in the backwater for about two weeks with shipyard reps out from UK superintending repair.

5th August 2008, 22:38
For a few trips I traded on the Venezualan coast with CP Ships on a product carrier. We used to carry petrol, avgas and the like which you can appreciate means fire safety if very very high on the agenda. Didn't stop the Venuzualans from putting a soldier on guard on the main deck in each port carrying a 7.62mm FN rifle !
I can always remember the old man trying to tell the agent 'If he shoots that f*****g thing we'll all be in orbit." Didn't make one bolivar's worth of difference.

kewl dude
6th August 2008, 06:39
when we reported aboard we were searched before being allowed on the pier. Body search with clothes on, mostly pockets, and luggage search. ALL lighters were seized and destroyed. EVERY ship provided weekly, among other things like a bar of bath soap, often LifeBuoy brand, and a bar of Lava brand soap, a packet of ten paper boxes of thirty each wooden strike on box safety matches. When working cargo smoking was allowed only in the Officers Saloon and the Crews Mess Room. In both locations there were plug in electric lighters. We of course smoked in the engine room.

Greg Hayden

9th August 2008, 20:59
There were NO rules when the NLF came aboard the Border Terrier, a product tanker loaded to the gunnells with all kinds including ATK, in Mukulla Bay--near Aden.
NLF had there own rules!!.Made up as they went along.
5 Guys, one was in charge, ALL of them carried sub machine guns, all had numerous hand grenades tied with STRING to their belts, all had pistols and bayonets, Captain and Chief Eng marched ashore at gunpoint!! Who was going to tell them they were breaking the rules---not me.!! a junior sparks doing a bit of fishing passing the time of day.
These terrorists would have used there weapons if neccesary.
Was told as the Capt and Ch.Eng were being driven along the clifftop roads the GUARDS were machine gunning the seagulls that were flying around near the car---the guns were very close to the earholes of the Capt and Ch.Eng
probably done to show the NLF definitely meant business!!ftf