Serenia - Tees Shuffle

loylobby
11th August 2009, 10:13
I was looking at the gallery and there was a comment about the Serenia and her run "Brent Spar to Teesport and other lovely ports of call!"

Does anyone recall doing the exotic Tees Shuffle? We would load at Phillips Oil Terminal on the North side of the Tees and make the epic voyage across the river to the South side of the Tees and discharge at the Shell Crude Oil Jetty (SCOJ).

To me with a tiny brain it was slightly confusing to say the least that on one 12-4 watch I was topping off and the next watch I might draining the same blooming tank. If the berth shift didn't fall on your standby, you could quite easily go to bed on one side of the river and wake up on the other. It was known to do a double shuffle......now that really made my head spin.

One plus point was that as I didn't live too far away my wife and daughter used to visit. Had to be carefull which side of the river we parked the car though, not many people refer to the tide tables before parking their car up for the night.

Tony Crompton
11th August 2009, 12:30
Yes, I remember it well.

I was the Pilot on a number of occasions.

I think the Master was Ken Bramley or Bradley? ( a small Geordie with a big voice!!)

One unusual thing about it was the fact we used 3 tugs,usually never allowed by Shell, as Phillips insisted on it for any ship berthing at their jetties.

Happy memories,

Tony

ps Always remember that "Serenia" was a real b****** to steer as she had a small rudder and her turbines were so slow to respond that by increasing revs all you got was increased speed and no extra turning even with the helm hard over.

loylobby
11th August 2009, 13:31
I think the Master was Ken Bramley or Bradley? ( a small Geordie with a big voice!!)

Yes Captain Ken Bramley.

He was so loud he didn't need a radio when you were on the maindeck mooring, his favourite phrase was often bellowed out from the bridgewing, "Heave on the ff...ing spring". He would continue to yell it even when we were heaving as fast as we could.

He also used to shout from his cabin up to the radio room to get the communal aerials switched back on when sparks had turned them off for transmitting and forgot to put them back on immediately, can still hear it now, "SPAAARRRKS"

It was his ship, he loved it. If an oil drum needed moving, even just a few feet, you had to use a trolley and not drag it across the deck because you might damage the paint.

He was keen on the OOW getting the shipping forecast from the BBC and heaven help anyone who missed it. He was also a stickler for doing the Met Office 6 hourly obs. no matter how busy you were. We even had to do it when on the Brent Spar and report our observations to Ocean Routes by VHF.

As you say though, happy days.

BlythSpirit
11th August 2009, 14:46
Tony,

Must have been some lazy sods in the ER - getting up revs was never a problem when I spent three great months on her as 3/E in '75!!
I spent some good trips on the Darina pulling into Teesport, my missus would come right down to the ships side with our car, the first time with a police escort as we berthed at midnight!! She couldn't find the berth so enlisted the help of the friendly Teeside Constabularly!

loylobby
11th August 2009, 15:35
Another Captain Ken Bramley trait was when doing the "elephant patrol" when it was too rough to get on the Brent Spar; he would draw a box on the chart and all you had to do was stay in the box until the weather eased.

One Sunday afternoon it was blowing an absolute hooley with heavy spray covering the deck and flying bridge. The bridge phone went and it was our Ken, he bellowed, "I've had my dinner, I'm coming back midships AND I don't want to get wet" and he hung up. He only gave me a couple of minutes to alter course before he appeared around the corner of the aft accommodation. A couple of minutes later the phone went again, "Thanks 2/0" and hung up again. A man of a few but very loud words.

KEITH SEVILLE
12th August 2009, 14:37
Loylooby.

I remember Ken Bramley very well. The first time I met him was on the Achatina moored at Dingle Mid River Moorings and he had with him in his cabin Harry Calvert (Chief Engineer) and they were both having a drink when I walked in. I was greeted with an infectious stare from him before he spoke.
As I got to know him he melted down quite a bit.
He didn't suffer fools gladly and he used to say, to me look after me and I'll look after you. It was quite amusing to see him on the bridge with his black
bobble hat on screaming instructions down from the bridge to the mate on the focsle. He used to walk around his cabin in stocking feet. As you say he took a great pride in the Serenia and treated it as his own ship.

Best Regards
Keith

loylobby
12th August 2009, 17:26
Keith

I sailed with Harry Calvert on the Hemitrochus. He was a hard Glaswegian who enjoyed a drink and told many, many tales of the sea. In fact Harry and the C/O were forever winding each other up about their achievements and trying to outdo the salty sea dog stories.

loylobby
13th September 2009, 10:12
I was the Pilot on a number of occasions.
Tony if you were a pilot on the Tees maybe you can clear up an urban myth regarding the Shell tanker Northia.

The rumour was that the Northia was bought "2nd hand" with the intention to run her from the Fulmar Field in to the Tees Shell Crude Oil Jetty. However after she was bought it was found that the Northia exceeded the maximum length for ships to enter the Tees and the THPA wouldn't make any exemption or exception. This led to her having to discharge at Immingham. The rumour went further as to suggest that this alleged Northia cock up contributed to the demise of the Shell refinery on the Tees.

Can you (or anyone else) shed any light on this.

Tony Crompton
13th September 2009, 12:33
Tony if you were a pilot on the Tees maybe you can clear up an urban myth regarding the Shell tanker Northia.

The rumour was that the Northia was bought "2nd hand" with the intention to run her from the Fulmar Field in to the Tees Shell Crude Oil Jetty. However after she was bought it was found that the Northia exceeded the maximum length for ships to enter the Tees and the THPA wouldn't make any exemption or exception. This led to her having to discharge at Immingham. The rumour went further as to suggest that this alleged Northia cock up contributed to the demise of the Shell refinery on the Tees.

Can you (or anyone else) shed any light on this.

I must admit I have never heard of this. We certainly did not have a "Maximum Length" for the Tees and regularly handled larger ships than "Northia" in the river. Just done an "Unscientific" search of Mirimar which gave Northia a length of 280m and the "Naticina" and "Matco Avon" (Shell regulars) lengths of 265m so there was not a great difference.

If there was a restriction due to length it would be on the size of the "Dredged Box" at Shell Jetty. Been retired too long now to remember its dimensions. Unfortunately it would have been impractical to dredge the "Box" a bit longer as there was a rock scaur that ran across the riverbed in that vicinity. When Shell Jetty was first dredged out it required an explosive rock blaster before the dredger. It was a barge that drilled a number of boreholes which were filled with explosives. The barge was then pulled back, explosives fired and the dredger dug up the broken rock. Unfortunately one day the explosives went off prematurely and I think it was 6 men who lost their lives.( A very sad day on the river). So it was not simple to just increase the length.

We always understood the Jetty was only designed to take the "D" class and Shell slipped in the "N" class.

Shell used to have their"Own Man" on the Tees (Colin Stewart) so cannot immagine that they would have made such a basic mistake of buying a ship too big for the Jetty!!

I certainly do not remember "Northia" coming into the river but she spent a lot of time anchored in Tees Bay and we regularly took crew out to her with the Pilot Boat. Used to cause ill feeling at times as we did it as a "Favour" in between shipping movements and Shell seemed to think of it as a "Taxi Service" and they could dictate the times and sometimes argued if we said the weather was unsuitable.

We had a couple of ships on a dedicated run from the Auk field. "Zafra" & "Zaria" but they were much smaller.

I also would be interested to hear if anyone else has any info. about this. Surely Shells decision to close the refinery and alter their whole distribution system in Northern England would depend on many things and market forces and not just on one particular ship.

Tony

ps you may be interested to learn thet Shell Jetty is now used by extremely large Gas Tankers, much bigger than the Shell ships but obviously with less draft.

loylobby
15th September 2009, 11:54
Thanks for that response Tony.

It may well just be one of those rumours that spread throughout the fleet where us salty sea dogs put 2 & 2 together and got 5. Still time for someone else to shed some light on the subject.

Another rumour was that the Rapana and Rimula (the OBO's) were bought without being properly surveyed or looked at in very great depth and that is why they were in such a state mechanically and structurally.

Billieboy
17th September 2009, 11:48
On the Northia, Capt Fenwick, was one of the two Masters running her up and down the North sea, he told me that they always used to anchor off the tees or around the Firth of Forth, for the odd couple of days before moving up to the Brent or the Fulmar FSU to pick up the next cargo.

When Shell brought the two "R" boats into the fleet, I was given them for repairs in Rotterdam, They weren't in too bad a condition, but for safety the cargo hold doors at the bottom of the holds were replaced with welded inserts. Both ships were in reasonable condition for their age, although UMS was more than slightly difficult to achieve. (EEK)

There were some hull design faults which showed up in heavy weather, usually on the port side, Rapana was one of those evil ships who would not do what was asked of her, she chalked up a number of casualties, on both ore and oil cargoes. I was very happy when I heard that she had been scrapped. Rimula was an easy going girl, happy to do just about anything. Both vessels rusted at about the same rate scale accumulated overnight, ask any of their Mates. (Thumb)

loylobby
22nd September 2009, 12:15
I am in no way superstitious but I am sure both the Rapana and Rimula were jinxed.
In 1980 I was on board the Rimula in an isolated wet dock at Jurong docks when she was being brought up to Shell and Classification Society standards. The ship had minimal ballast and had a massive freeboard. Access from the shore was by an horizontal gangway which was attached to the shipside rail from a tower on the dockside. We were on shore power and had a shore phone in the office. As well as deck and engine bits being fixed and upgraded, the accommodation was being revamped so the deck was littered with bits and bobs of condemned stuff.

We were doing "nights on board". At the time there was hardly ever any overnight dockyard work going on so it was quite a cushy number. One night there was only myself (2/0), the 4/E and a 5/E on board; I had just had a walk around the deck and saw that the wind was getting up.

To cut a long story shortish an almighty vicious Singaporean squall blew up blowing from offshore about 4 points on the bow. I used the phone to try and call the Port Authority for a standby tug but couldn't get through. I even phoned the fire brigade but they didn’t understand what I wanted. Tried the VHF but it wasn’t working.

Despite our best efforts to keep the moorings tight we started to blow off the jetty. The winches were hydraulic and didn’t seem up to the job and afterwards we found that some of the wires were on the drums the wrong way for the brakes to function to their maximum effect; PLUS some of the mooring wire eyes gave way because they weren't properly spliced but the eye was formed using bulldog clamps covered by a seizing. We walked the anchor out to the bottom; all this to no avail, the bloody minded ship kept inching off the jetty, the shore power line disconnected itself, as did the shore telephone line. Then the shore gangway pulled off a length of shipside rail along with 6 or 7 stanchions in a slow motion Pop! Pop! Pop! The gangway itself was left dangling limply from the access tower. What fun.

Eventually the squall passed and we heaved ourselves back alongside having flashed up the gas turbine emergency generator. By dawn we were back alongside, no shore power, no shore phone and no gangway; the deck was littered with old mattresses, pillows and curtains. From the shore all must have looked well, so much so that when the other officers came to the ship early in the morning, they all trudged up the access tower as normal. When they got to the top there was much head scratching about the dangling gangway and missing shipside rail.

Having spent virtually all night trying to “look after” their precious ship, I then had to spend all day at an enquiry and writing a report for head office. What fun!

The Rapana history of mishaps is well documented in Shell circles.

Billieboy
22nd September 2009, 12:26
Both of these boats would have been lost more than once without their GT units. At least Rimula didn't kill anyone that I know of. Did you Happen to meet Captain Bruno, (I don't remember his surname), the Italian Master who handed over both ships, from the Italian Owners, to Shell?

loylobby
22nd September 2009, 16:15
Did you Happen to meet Captain Bruno, (I don't remember his surname), the Italian Master who handed over both ships, from the Italian Owners, to Shell?

No I didn't have that pleasure, in fact can't remember meeting any Italians.

I remember more insignificant things though. I remember an abundance of khaki pith helmets around the ship, at least one in each cabin and lots more in the stores. Also in the stores there were a couple of sub aqua diving sets which the superintendent and old man made us dump, I presume for our own safety. Also when Shell renewed the pyrotechnics I acquired a Very pistol which I took home and now is in a drawer somewhere upstairs.

As a pure tanker man at that time, the trip on the Rimula was an education and a half.

Billieboy
22nd September 2009, 20:57
When I was first ordered for repairs on the Rapana, the learnig curve was almost vertical, I know exactly; what you mean.