Port Congestion - Ships Nostalgia
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Port Congestion

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  #1  
Old 18th January 2018, 11:04
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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Port Congestion

When our 50-strong team of London/Liverpool port employees began operations in Dammam Port in Jan 1976 there was little to suggest it would eventually develop into the largest seaport in the Persian Gulf. There was just the rat infested North Pier (photo attached) which could accommodate a ship on either side discharging “direct” to railcars; four berths with sheds and unpaved open zones to the rear, plus a berth used for loading export bagged urea fertiliser from railcars.

At one point in that same year of ’76, 355 ships were waiting to discharge at Saudi ports. The government set up a national Ports Authority, which took over control of Dammam seaport from the Saudi Government Rail Road Organisation (SGRRO), with a mandate to eliminate port congestion whatever the cost. Our expat team, Gulf Port Management Services, aided by using lighters at the anchorage and the beginning of massive extension of port facilities, cut waiting time from about 3 months to zero by the end of the first year of operations. Throughput was steadily increased from 2 million to 12 million tons per annum.

My attached photo shows vessels anchored off awaiting a berth.

Keith
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File Type: jpg North Pier, King Abdul Aziz Port, Dammam 1976.jpg (138.6 KB, 133 views)
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  #2  
Old 20th January 2018, 12:39
Johnny Walker Johnny Walker is offline  
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I was there on the King Arthur in about 68, if my memory serves me correctly and it is the same pier. It seemed to disappear into the distance as it was an extremely long pier in a very shallow sea area. I hated going to that part of the world at the time as most of the ports had very little of interest and were just plain boring.
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  #3  
Old 20th January 2018, 16:39
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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The attached photo provides a good view of how Dammam Port looked when you were there, Johnny. What you saw disappearing into the distance was a 6 mile long causeway providing road and rail access to the port. Ship’s personnel were not allowed ashore so calling there would have been tedious, especially after a lengthy wait at the anchorage.

Keith
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File Type: jpg Dammam Port 1970.JPG (77.4 KB, 78 views)
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  #4  
Old 20th January 2018, 17:00
G0SLP G0SLP is offline  
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Used to call there to discharge frozen chickens from Brazil. A s**thole of a place...
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  #5  
Old 20th January 2018, 17:10
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Very efficient the Saudies,Just before I went to Jeddah they were unloading cement from the anchorage using helicopters,
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  #6  
Old 20th January 2018, 18:50
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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The office building on the North Pier also accommodated a restaurant used mainly by Yemeni port labourers and Pakistani clerks. We Brits would occasionally enjoy a cold bottle of Kaki Cola there. This was Coca Cola in the familiar shaped bottle but that brand name was forbidden in the Kingdom – presumably due to some Jewish connection. The drink was made from imported Coca Cola concentrate and bottled at the Kaki Cola factory situated on what was then the coast road.

This ingrained anti-Jewish stance meant that proof of baptism was required before getting an entry visa. My company may have taken things too seriously, when in 1975 prior to our GPMS team leaving the UK for Saudi Arabia, we were advised to remove any Marks and Spencer labels when packing clothes. The major London branches of M&S were later invaded by many shopaholic Arab females attired in black abaya purchasing loads of goods for the folks back home.

Keith
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  #7  
Old 21st January 2018, 09:49
Johnny Walker Johnny Walker is offline  
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Thanks for #3 that is definitely the port that I remember the ship had loaded in the U.K. and sailed via the cape been at anchor for a week or two partly discharged there then Kuwait, Banda Shahpur and Khoramshah about 3 months without a decent run ashore.
Strangely enough I worked in Saudi Arabia for about a year and lived on the Dharhan - Dammam coast road. I had signed a two year contract (I must have been nuts) I found it so boring i skinned out after 1 year.
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  #8  
Old 22nd January 2018, 13:11
Bob L Bob L is online now  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimthehat View Post
Very efficient the Saudies,Just before I went to Jeddah they were unloading cement from the anchorage using helicopters,
I was with Gray MACKENZIE in Jeddah in the mid seventies - due to the demand for cement importation vessels were loaded ( mainly in Greece ) with pre slung cement - an American company Carson Helicopters were hired to lift the cement slings from the anchorage and " dump " it on the North Extension - this was done in daylight and in the evenings it was transported out of the port - as I recall he had 12 adapted Sikorsky Helicopters with American Pilots - the problem they had was the cement dust getting into the engines which required continual overhaul - two helicopters crashed during the operations - one down the hold of a vessel having got caught in the ship riggings and another had a rotor failure over the onshore pile which was quite dramatic to see - Carson had developed his operation in USA/Canada where he lifted timber from inaccessible areas and dropped it into lakes/ rivers for collection - it was an interesting concept and must have been the most expensive bag of cement on the planet at that time.
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  #9  
Old 22nd January 2018, 16:37
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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We with GPMS in Dammam heard about the helicopter operation, Bob, but you have given the most detailed account. A figure mentioned at the time was £9 per ton for cement which doesn’t seem a lot now, but 40 odd years ago....

Keith
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  #10  
Old 22nd January 2018, 22:40
Bob L Bob L is online now  
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Yemen Sky Hook

Whilst in Jeddah I was sent to North Yemen ( as it was at that time ) to carry out a survey of the ports of Hodeidah and Mocca - Hodeidah had been run by Russians for a number of years but they were leaving and there was an indication that commercial operators would be appointed. Due to congestion at Hodeidah an American Company were constructing a Sky Hook System - the idea was that a vessel sailed under a large barrage type ballon and made fast to a forward and after mooring - the balloon was tethered on the Port and Starboard side of the vessel and an endless wire ran from the balloon to the shore mainly to discharge ( or load ) The concept had been developed by the U.S. Forces and had been successfully trailed by them - unfortunately soon after commissioning the Barrage
Balloon broke free and was blown ashore - an experiment that failed
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  #11  
Old 23rd January 2018, 18:33
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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Yemeni Labour

The main labour force in Dammam at the time was Yemeni. These hard working men, whose dress typically included turban, chequered loin cloth and desert boots, were employed in all types of manual work both in the city and the port. During the early days their conditions were basic. They resided in a small self-built shanty town at the base of the port causeway on what was then the shoreline.

Preparations for the 1979 State Visit by the Queen to Saudi Arabia, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was moored in Dammam Port, included the building of a high screening wall around the Yemeni camp lest the sight offend the royal eye. Incidentally, our boss received his OBE from HRH on board the Britannia in recognition of the work done by our joint London/Liverpool team.

Keith
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  #12  
Old 23rd January 2018, 21:58
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Pat Kennedy Pat Kennedy is offline  
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Originally Posted by Aberdonian View Post
When our 50-strong team of London/Liverpool port employees began operations in Dammam Port in Jan 1976 there was little to suggest it would eventually develop into the largest seaport in the Persian Gulf. There was just the rat infested North Pier (photo attached) which could accommodate a ship on either side discharging “direct” to railcars; four berths with sheds and unpaved open zones to the rear, plus a berth used for loading export bagged urea fertiliser from railcars.

At one point in that same year of ’76, 355 ships were waiting to discharge at Saudi ports. The government set up a national Ports Authority, which took over control of Dammam seaport from the Saudi Government Rail Road Organisation (SGRRO), with a mandate to eliminate port congestion whatever the cost. Our expat team, Gulf Port Management Services, aided by using lighters at the anchorage and the beginning of massive extension of port facilities, cut waiting time from about 3 months to zero by the end of the first year of operations. Throughput was steadily increased from 2 million to 12 million tons per annum.

My attached photo shows vessels anchored off awaiting a berth.

Keith
I remember some stevedores who had worked on Birkenhead docks going to Damman as part of that team Keith. One of them, a friend of mine named Freddie Norris had been a hatch boss for A E Smith Coggins. I bumped into him in the 1990s working as a council groundsman. He said he made a fortune in Damman, but hated every minute of it.
regards,
Pat
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  #13  
Old 23rd January 2018, 23:24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aberdonian View Post
The office building on the North Pier also accommodated a restaurant used mainly by Yemeni port labourers and Pakistani clerks. We Brits would occasionally enjoy a cold bottle of Kaki Cola there. This was Coca Cola in the familiar shaped bottle but that brand name was forbidden in the Kingdom – presumably due to some Jewish connection. The drink was made from imported Coca Cola concentrate and bottled at the Kaki Cola factory situated on what was then the coast road.

This ingrained anti-Jewish stance meant that proof of baptism was required before getting an entry visa. My company may have taken things too seriously, when in 1975 prior to our GPMS team leaving the UK for Saudi Arabia, we were advised to remove any Marks and Spencer labels when packing clothes. The major London branches of M&S were later invaded by many shopaholic Arab females attired in black abaya purchasing loads of goods for the folks back home.

Keith
During my time in Saudi Arabia, in the 1990's Coca Cola was banned because they had a plant in Israel, Pepsi was freely available because they did not sell Pepsi in Israel....

I have heard that Coca cola is now available in Saudi....
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  #14  
Old 24th January 2018, 13:34
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Kennedy View Post
I remember some stevedores who had worked on Birkenhead docks going to Damman as part of that team Keith. One of them, a friend of mine named Freddie Norris had been a hatch boss for A E Smith Coggins. I bumped into him in the 1990s working as a council groundsman. He said he made a fortune in Damman, but hated every minute of it.
regards,
Pat
Ach, perhaps you should have considered coming out yourself, Pat, you would have been welcome! We were paid in Saudi riyals which, linked to the $, caused our earnings to near double when the £ lost ground in the 70s. Our team rapidly expanded to well over 100 which included staff working in all sorts of areas of port management – we even had language teachers.

The Liverpool intake was provided by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Some were ex Blue Funnel; I think flatmate Ralph Warwick (nephew of the Cunard master?) was one but there were more whose names I now struggle with! One young Liverpool lad called Paul Hopkins, who went home to his old job after two years in Dammam, was run down by a straddle carrier and killed not long afterwards.

I did not meet Freddie Norris, possibly due to my being sent to work for 5 years in the extensive Inland Yards where, among plenty other things, we handled up to 7000 tons per day of mainly heavy construction material destined for Riyadh on the rail link.

Keith
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  #15  
Old 24th January 2018, 20:43
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Pat Kennedy Pat Kennedy is offline  
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Ach, perhaps you should have considered coming out yourself, Pat, you would have been welcome! We were paid in Saudi riyals which, linked to the $, caused our earnings to near double when the £ lost ground in the 70s. Our team rapidly expanded to well over 100 which included staff working in all sorts of areas of port management – we even had language teachers.

The Liverpool intake was provided by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Some were ex Blue Funnel; I think flatmate Ralph Warwick (nephew of the Cunard master?) was one but there were more whose names I now struggle with! One young Liverpool lad called Paul Hopkins, who went home to his old job after two years in Dammam, was run down by a straddle carrier and killed not long afterwards.

I did not meet Freddie Norris, possibly due to my being sent to work for 5 years in the extensive Inland Yards where, among plenty other things, we handled up to 7000 tons per day of mainly heavy construction material destined for Riyadh on the rail link.

Keith
I had left the docks by then Keith and was happily driving a big old crane in Cammell Lairds ship repair yard, which had all the comforts of home. I'd have been there still if the yard hadn't closed down in 1979.
I was offered a job in Sullom Voe shortly after that, most of Laird's riggers had gone up there building the terminal, but the wife put the block on that! She did agree for me to work in Emden for a while at Thyssen Nordseewerk. But Damman would have been a step too far. She liked having me home at night, God rest her soul.

Regards,
Pat
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