Captain Pschonder and the Yantian pilot on the starboard wing.
Leonard is the steward who looks after us, and after everyone else as
well. We also met Joe, who is the cook, and is the former chef in a Manila
hotel. “Everyone else” adds up to very few people. Counting ourselves,
there are twenty-six persons on board. The regular complement on this fiveyear
old, highly automated ship is twenty-two. There is an extra electrician
along for the ride to the U.S., and there is a fourth mate who is a trainee
watch officer under the normal complement of three watchstanding deck
officers. All of the unlicensed crew are Filipinos, and so are the third mate
and the third engineer. The second mate is Finnish, and the rest of the
officers are German. In the afternoon, the container handling finished and
the ship got underway.
Captain Pschonder kindly invited me to the bridge. Quite a different
deal than a Navy bridge. Well, not really that different, but there were far
fewer people in the pilot house. Or “wheel house” as they called it. Piloting
was done by electronic chart and GPS. The Hong Kong pilot had the conn
and gave orders directly to the helmsman. The ship went out between
Lamma and Hong Kong islands, and then passed Aberdeen and Stanley.
Passing by Aberdeen, I noticed a ship on the starboard bow whose bearing
appeared not to be changing. Trying to be surreptitious, I looked over at the
GPS harbor chart plot to see how much maneuvering room there was. Not
much, but I thought to myself that I would alter course to starboard ten
degrees. At exactly the same time as I thought that, the pilot ordered the
helmsman to come right ten degrees! It was nice to know that I still have
some seaman’s eye left!
The ship then headed up to Yantian which is just north of Sha Tau
Kok, on the eastern end of the border between the Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region and the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.
Yantian is another large container facility, and it seemed larger than the one
at Stonecutter’s Island. Many of the containers brought on at Hong Kong
were empty ones destined for Yantian. Container handling commenced as
soon as the mooring was complete, and continued throughout the night.