R/O to ETO - Page 2 - Ships Nostalgia
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R/O to ETO

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  #26  
Old 2nd January 2020, 03:48
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J. Davies J. Davies is online now  
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Interesting responses. The common thread seems to be that the R/O ticket was a good foundation for any further career we chose. Some went very far indeed.

In my case I stayed on ships and worked for Swire in the 70s and 80s, deep sea fleet. At that time they had a couple of DP dive boats in their offshore division. I requested the MED training course and a transfer to a DSV during one of the periods in oil and gas when the oil price dived and day-rates plummeted. It was a choice between sacking this newly-minted ETO or the Electrician. For some unknown reason I was the lucky one.

There followed three years of overhauling motors, generators, switchboards and everything else. You had to be pretty fit, which I suppose I was. It was a baptism of fire but it set me up for 30 more years at sea, mostly on DP dive boats. In the good times we earned small fortunes, but there were some doldrums as well.

My last vessel was a rich Texan's private dive ship, DSSV Pressure Drop, an 18-month contract sending him down to the deepest places of the five oceans. I was just a humble ship's lecky but what a party that was.

https://fivedeeps.com/

The old bones are starting to ache and it is now time to swallow the anchor.

Happy New Year to All

Last edited by J. Davies; 2nd January 2020 at 06:03..
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  #27  
Old 2nd January 2020, 13:04
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Varley Varley is offline   SN Supporter
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Rather 'Adequate foundation'.

When I looked around for more appropriately educated graduates (I do not mean degree level, simply those emerging from colleges for employment) we seemed to produce none. Certainly nothing like the Eastern Block did.

The excuse seemed to be the lack of a market coupled with state funding availability (the Industry has always considered education to be a State function and training to be Industry's). In the jargon of those days courses all had to 'articulate with the next more academic level - building blocks on a straight ladder to the 'top'. I have no idea where shore industry get its Electricians (as in those that do similar 'plant' work not housebuilders' wiremen) very few seemed to come our way (notable exceptions: the coal and gas industries where they could not afford NOT to have the sort of people that were our due).

Everything has to be measured against the eventual benefit it brings and the Easterners are now finding that their graduates are better educated than the State can afford balanced against the shipowners' needs onboard.

Perhaps the East invested too much in candidates for the requirements of the lower ladder rungs and we invest(ed) too little.

From a personal point of view I would have preferred to articulate from secondary into Eastern further education. From an employers' point of view (at my modest level, anyway) I wanted only adequacy in both availability and education. More than that benefits only others and the cost benefit equation for Industry, Taxpayer and subject is for those others to decide and fund.

Selfishness comes into my equation too. If qualified for something 'higher' then I am always going to have to fish for E/Os in a much larger pool and pay more to keep them once on the hook. More able than me, so I do not have to work very hard, is fine but not so able that I cannot afford them. It is all about ME not them!

Anyway, for me and many on SN this is passed and the New Year makes it further passed. That doesn't mean it should not be a good one for all of us which is what I wish.
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  #28  
Old 2nd January 2020, 13:58
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Rather 'Adequate foundation'.









Selfishness comes into my equation too. If qualified for something 'higher' then I am always going to have to fish for E/Os in a much larger pool and pay more to keep them once on the hook. More able than me, so I do not have to work very hard, is fine but not so able that I cannot afford them. It is all about ME not them!
Yes, David, I realise that. Pay them sh1te, and when a ship's not available, dump them!

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  #29  
Old 2nd January 2020, 14:54
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Yes, David, I realise that. Pay them sh1te, and when a ship's not available, dump them!

Not what I meant at all. You remember that when I started as ECO the scale was somewhat above 3/E (seniority interferes with the scale). This was not tenable by the early 80s although I have always believed that the E/O is either no. 3 in the engine room team or is fit only to be somewhere else (possibly wiring houses). A two and half ringer with salary to match.

Whilst that remains my (somewhat self adulatory?) opinion I am also practical and so with DSM in the forefront the ETO was invented. To be the same as ECO but only paid as 3/E. At the same time the R/O (always a chance given to go ETO, few took it up) was revised (ie cut) to a 4/E equivalent (Frank McNeilage, P. Manager, engineered to screw this a bit by putting it alongside a seniority scale that restored the level so that a new ETO, doing a job of work and preventing me from having to, could be paid the same as an old hand sitting on his anal surrounds). The longer term envisaged was that GMDSS would allow us to simply drop the title and revert to E/O. ETO however seems to have taken traction.

Whilst I cannot remember a ship where the existing E/O was exchanged for ECO/ETO - I am sure there must have been - there were certainly new contracts where an E/O did not figure and as the R/O was still then required we (more the proper Supers and Chiefs than me) were left with either an R/O who worked below or nothing.

Let's face it, many managers had been sailing safely without E/Os anyway - rather a matter of culture. The only two I remember being 'forced' to leave were two of the ETOs not E/Os. One off to 'better' things, when waiting too long unpaid for a berth with us, with Shell although he did not want to go and more disgracefully my one and only lady ETO who in modern parlance had her exit 'constructed' simply on account of gender and one of the ablest.

The pay and leave remained 'not bad' just not for the ETO as fair as it should have been.

The wholesale move of sea staff to Denholm Bermuda remains in our eyes an attempt to keep 'our' ships staffed with 'our' people and still attract clients. Does anyone imagine that an office stuffed with Brits wanted to struggle with foreign officers? (I know, selfish again). When CAST went bust, something of a driver in the process (John, please don't tell us again how the Duck quacking was not a duck quacking!). I did ask, at a 'crisis' staff meeting, why Sir Ian shareholder had not shut down the operation. Management companies like DSM (as opposed to DLS) have virtually no capital. Carpets, desks, computers, even Manager's cars and other perks were leased. Nothing the rag and bone man take as stock let alone a bank as collateral. They cannot sustain a loss for any length of time.

My answer from the late great David Underwood was that by the efforts of all (I think especially the Directors, but then he would have said that) we had not made a loss otherwise that is exactly what would have happened.

Selfish, yes, but 'daddy' was still looking out for you. Just not as diligently as he did for himself. Whilst an instrumental cog I must point out that there were both other supporters and opposition, of the latter enough to thicken the skin.

Last edited by Varley; 2nd January 2020 at 14:59..
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  #30  
Old 2nd January 2020, 20:47
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I'll go along with what you say, David.
Can you tell me, was 'Armada Marine' connected to DSM?
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  #31  
Old 2nd January 2020, 23:54
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There is always perspective. Not that I know of but if a client rather than an arm of the company can you give me a ship name?
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  #32  
Old 3rd January 2020, 00:31
gordonarfur gordonarfur is offline
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I was always interested in the transition from R/O to 3/O ,its availability and process. Has any reader of this blog done that and if so can they please elaborate.
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  #33  
Old 3rd January 2020, 01:06
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DV, when DSM dumped me, vessel laid up. I joined Armada Marine, Plymouth. This recommended job came from DSM. Ship names I can remember, Corato, Freenes and EB Carrier.
I made the mistake of signing a contract.
I had a job on an Odeco semi sub, as radio technician. After setting up the gear, I was asked to remain as radio op, same wages, which were great. After a few trips, Odeco wanted me to go direct employed with them.
Armada Marine wouldn't release me from the contract.

Forgot the Rollnes, Rocknes and Risnes.

Last edited by duncs; 3rd January 2020 at 01:23.. Reason: forgot ship's names
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  #34  
Old 3rd January 2020, 01:54
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I was always interested in the transition from R/O to 3/O ,its availability and process. Has any reader of this blog done that and if so can they please elaborate.
In Australia, ROs were offered the opportunity of switching to the mate's side. I never fancied it myself because the Australian MN was looking dicy at best and I thought it was a recipe for disaster. I didn't fancy all the study required either. I do know of at least one who did it and obtained employment as a 3rd Mate. Hope it worked out in the long run for anyone who took that option.

A couple of trips before I was "let go", I attended a seminar about new crewing arrangements on Australian ships. A few Seamen's Union heavyweights were there and I got talking to one of them. I asked him why I couldn't retrain as a steward and he ran away from me!

I did know an RO who swapped over and eventually ended up becoming Master. This was before the night of the long knives though. He'd been an AB on Norwegian ships previously and had enough seatime to go for his ticket. I sailed with him when he was Mate and I remember an AB slagging him off, saying: "He was a Sparks, what does he know about working on deck?" I said: "Well he was an AB on Norwegian ships so I suppose he knows about as much as you do!"

John T
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  #35  
Old 3rd January 2020, 02:08
duncs duncs is offline  
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I can well remember the tug of war, between the OM and the CE. "he's my 3/O", "No he's not, he's my electrician"
Leaving port, the OM nicely dressed, with braid, me in a dirty boilersuit. I don't know what the pilot thought, but was probably too polite to say anything.
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  #36  
Old 3rd January 2020, 10:45
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Duncan,

Corato and EB Carrier were in Management at some time. EB Carrier was in, out (with Mr. Sonmez directly or a Turkish manager anyway, and back in - a fun ship about which we have posted before!)

Rocknes etc were either manning only or Triport/D MacLay in the former case I viewed DCM (Denholm Crew Management) as actively working against DSM (A little strong but they thought Crew only contracts could do without someone doing Technical Management and even if that might be some virtual requirement then it wasn't material to them if it was DSM or AN Other). In the latter case I occasionally got a question or two thrown my way but latrgely they looked after themselves.

Your point WRT the bridge. I am reminded that when the new Alcan vessels 'came out' someone had used the R/O to massage the Safe Manning Application and he figured on the bridge to do the Telegraph and movement book. When introducing an ETO I thought it was more important he should see what was happening below so I stood in. Only to discover they had to trick the telegraph to get her to start at Dead Slow. Never fix it properly if one can fiddle it!

(Same visit revealed the steering gear changeover abortion had been wired up a about F so a loss of oil would have automatically destroyed both pumps (Same for the 'class') and that the ME Jackets could not be kept hot enough because the piston flow detection required a simple adjustment (RLA 90 - relying on a heater and temperature switch with the flow to cool the combination). Never let the specialist know you have a problem, just let your engine rot with cold corrosion.

Doncha just miss it? I do.

DV

Last edited by Varley; 3rd January 2020 at 17:21..
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  #37  
Old 3rd January 2020, 11:17
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I do tend to miss it, David. It's like it was a previous existence. You're right, the Jebsen boats were only manned, and managed from Ruislip.
The Freenes had Japanese Tsugi electric cranes and were a nightmare for me. The control gear reminded me of the old telephone exchanges, all relays, etc. We did our own load/discharge, no shore cranes. Somehow, I managed to keep them going, while I was there.
I sometimes think, "was it real?".
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  #38  
Old 4th January 2020, 04:49
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It was a great job. For a young, single bloke.

I often look back with a smile.
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  #39  
Old 4th January 2020, 08:19
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I was Marconi R/O starting in 1953 - passenger liners and also world-wide tramping. LOVED sea life. Then joined P&O in 1957 for even better experiences including the initial years of ss Canberra (eight R/Os). Swallowed the anchor in 1963 to join IBM - a varied and interesting career that lasted 30 years. But I always, (and still) pine for my seafaring days. The varying views Ive been told of life at sea in the 1980s/90s make me realise that I made a lucky decision in 1963 as air travel was quickly taking over sea travel. I can't imagine wanting to be an ETO even if it meant still being at sea. But oh how I much I wanted to go back to my good old days.

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  #40  
Old 4th January 2020, 09:36
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On my first trip in early 1961, I was told by several of my shipmates that R/Os were totally unneccessary, and would be dispensed with within the next few years. For the next 31 years, I heard the same old worn-out statement put to me, that we "didn't do anything" and work was no more than moving finger ends (morse), but as the years rolled, I found that I was working harder than ever before under a deluge of satcoms, telephone calls, company and passenger traffic (1 R/O and 136 passengers). Then when supposed to be off duty, working all over the place sorting out PA problems, computers, videos, TVs, tape recorders etc. When voluntary redundancy was offered to the whole lot of us from captain down, I jumped at the chance (They did offer us all re-employent in the same jobs with a 30% pay cut! I generally enjoyed my time at sea, but I only wanted to be an R/O. I have never missed it, and don't even feel very far away from it as I moved over into the "maritime nostalgia" trade as self-emplyed. Lots of other ex R/Os that I know also seemed to have made a success of new careers after leaving the sea. I guess that most of us were extremely versatile, and could turn our hands to anything!
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  #41  
Old 4th January 2020, 13:50
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I always wanted to go to sea as a deck officer but was disappointed when I was told my eyesight was not good enough, so went for what I thought at the time was the next best thing and trained as an RO, now looking back I realise it was actually the best thing, only person I was responsible to was the OM nobody could tell me how to do my job, plenty time off in port and actually enjoyed the work.

Another plus was I had no problem when I wanted to come ashore in finding other employment, I applied to Decca Radar and was straight away offered a job as a marine electronics engineer, to me it was the best of both worlds, still working on ships of all types and sizes installing and servicing electronic equipment with occasional sea trips doing sea trials etc., and ended up as a manager of one of their service depots.

I enjoyed every minute of my time at sea and would have stayed longer had my then newly married wife not wanted me away all the time but I could never have envisage myself becoming an ETO, I went to sea as an RO and that is all I wanted be while at sea.
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  #42  
Old 5th January 2020, 01:09
Baulkham Hills Baulkham Hills is offline  
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I did a short trip on the Freenes, a ship in woeful condition with a deeply unpleasant skipper who I heard got the sack for pocketing a bonus meant for the crew. and manning cut to the bone. For god sake there was not even enough crockery on board and handover included a mug and a caution not to lose it. So people went to the saloon with mug in hand like inmates in some institution. We got ice bound in the St. Lawrence which was a first for me, unfortunately the prop was damaged by the ice. From memory I think the crew were changed back to Filippo and the ship was only registered in the UK to take an advantage of some UK tax incentive. A ship to forget.

Last edited by Baulkham Hills; 5th January 2020 at 04:35..
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  #43  
Old 5th January 2020, 23:24
gordonarfur gordonarfur is offline
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Hi John thanks for the info much appreciated, unfortunately I would have been too old to transition to 3/0 but would have loved to have had the chance. leaning over the bridge dodger on the 8-12 watches dreaming of the South American fleshpots and swapping jokes with sparks wonderful.!!!
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  #44  
Old 18th January 2020, 02:43
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An interesting discussion, which I just come across after a few months absent from SN. In my case, I joined Indo-China SN (Jardines) of Hong Kong in the early 80s as an R/O. They had the management of Gearbulk ships, on which the R/O was described as 'REO' and assisted the E/O, mainly on the gantry cranes. This included the normal maintenance, as well as 'parking and unparking', testing etc. on arrival and departure. Eventually they let me 'have a go' as 2nd Elec for a few months under the chief's guidance, and then take over as E/O. Still had an R/O onboard, so I now had nothing to do with the radio side. By the 90s, with GMDSS coming along, the assisting REOs were being phased out, in which I took a part by retrofitting many of the ships with the GMDSS gear. I continued on as 'Snr Electrician' until 1997, but I never credit myself with being a good one. I left for a shore tech job in 97.
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  #45  
Old 24th July 2020, 19:19
Piecesofeight Piecesofeight is offline
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Is that Chris Penrose Stevens second from right? He was at MNC Greenhithe 1980-83 and I know he worked on cable ships
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  #46  
Old 24th July 2020, 19:42
Piecesofeight Piecesofeight is offline
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"trained as an RO, now looking back I realise it was actually the best thing, only person I was responsible to was the OM nobody could tell me how to do my job,"

Precisely. In later years as the R/O petered out I worked ETO under several C/E all except one of whom were bullys. The R/O job was wonderful and good to have done it at all.
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  #47  
Old 24th July 2020, 19:52
sparkie2182 sparkie2182 is offline  
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"Some went very far indeed"

I believe a former Director of Outside Broadcasting Engineering of the BBC was a former R/O.
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  #48  
Old 24th July 2020, 20:24
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Is that Chris Penrose Stevens second from right? He was at MNC Greenhithe 1980-83 and I know he worked on cable ships
Yes got it in one.
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  #49  
Old 24th July 2020, 21:46
dannic dannic is offline  
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Last company I sailed deepsea with, large tanker outfit, up til 3 years ago no Electrical, ETO or anything similar carried.
My job as chief.
Claims there were 3 leccys who did a month here or there were office myths!!
Dannic
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  #50  
Old 25th July 2020, 10:41
Piecesofeight Piecesofeight is offline
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Attention DV perhaps you'd like to know the reality of life on those Alcan ships as ETO. This from a letter I wrote to a friend in August 1992. I make no apology for the content it's all true.

"No doubt you are wondering what is involved in being an ETO (electro technical officer) with Denholms. Well first off I can assure you that you are missing nothing. Just over a year ago I was earning more than I earn here for being simply an R/O. Denholms have been employing ETOs for some years having obviously come to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to employ both an electrician and an R/O if the latter can be persuaded to do both jobs for a single salary. The result is that I have direct responsibility for more equipment, checks, routines and jobs than I ever imagined possible.
It is a horrendous task and just to rub salt in the wound I am responsible for the ALRS corrections which take forever and cannot be done during the non‑existent watches (tape recorded silence periods).
I have inherited a considerable list of outstanding jobs which could well have been done within the time of the last ETO. I have inherited several months of back corrections not done because the 'new' books had not arrived. To add to the fun the old man here keeps a special file for monthly signature that corrections are up to date.
It is difficult to do them with a screwdriver in one hand and a meter in the other.
The day starts at 8am in the radio room, in uniform, to get any incoming traffic (we have HF tlx, Satcom, etc) and write the log.
Then off down the e/r in boiler suit to check for lamps out and megger a few motors, also do Shock Pulse Metering (a way of checking bearings) on the running motors. There are 123 motors on board for which I am directly responsible both for megger checks, SPM and running currents etc. A report has to be submitted to the C/E every three months on the meggering and every two months for the SPM of which there are 61/123 to check. On a blackboard beside me as I write are seventeen outstanding jobs of which some will be done soon as
spares arrive here in Port Alfred.
After lunch and in the evenings I am required to rewind the tape and listen to the accumulated silence periods in order to comply with the ships watch exemption. To make life more interesting they require that the timer be set to record for one minute before and after the silence period i.e. H=14‑19 and H+44‑49. This makes for 80 minutes a day of extra duty some of which can of course be used updating the log and writing the workbook and spares orders, or doing ALRS corrections perhaps.
It is impossible to plan mentally ahead to cope with this because despite whatever one had planned to get done, someone (cook, C/O, C/E, Capt) will stop me in an alleyway and say 'Sparks could you just have a look at this'. One can say later but often it's the old man or the C/E not taking no for an answer.
In addition to the above I have of course to handle all incoming and outgoing traffic, including accounts, all bridge equipment, (natch), and my movements about the ship and what I am doing at any time are monitored by the Capt, C/E and 2/E the latter who tried laying it on when I first arrived but has now backed off after I complained. I have the status of a third engineer (if that) with all that that implies. I feel like the ships dogsbody."

I gave up listening to the SP tapes within days. As a former R/O it offended my sense of duty to do this but the whole point of SPs is to reply to a ship in distress at the time, not eight hours later so I regarded the whole exercise as futile and this on top of a day's work. I'd like to know how DSM ever obtained an exemption from the regs to have a ship not listening to SPs on a real time basis. Needless to say I never went back and am still sorry I ever took the job in the first place.
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