Monday, 27 August 2012

M.K.Gandhi foisted as "Father of Nation" ?

Has Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi by his fans, been foisted as nation's father without any analysis, discussion, protocol or consensus. It appears so, going by the seemingly innocuous application doing rounds in government offices.
The credit for stirring hornet's nest and asking unsavoury questions goes to a young girl Miss Aishwarya Prashar of Lucknow. She is a student of fifth class and has submitted an application under RTI (Right To Information) act. She has sought following information in her request:
  1. Who gave the title of "Nation's Father" to M.K.Gandhi?
  2. When was this title conferred on him?
  3. What were the grounds for such honour?
The application was directed to PMO (Prime Minister;s Office), but to no avail. Then the application was sent to Home Ministry for answers and sadly, they had none. Now the application has been forwarded to National Archives, but the hope of finding the answers is bleak indeed.
 Now, the citizens are wondering if they have been taught and are being taught baseless and unfounded facts. Some even go to the extent of saying that it was merely a ploy of Congress Party for reaping the electoral harvest.
This reminds me of early nineties, when I was in Kolkata for my marine examinations. I came by the then issue an English magazine named Sunday. It had extensively published excerpts from a book "Myth of the Mahatma"  by Michael Edwards.I still remember a lot of funny, ludicrous and unthinkable incidents related to M.K.Gandhi's life tearing apart his status as Mahatma. The excerpts were indeed controversial. Since then, I have tried to procure a copy of that book on irregular occasions without any success. The possibility of book having been banned cannot be ruled out. But I have hopes. Bans in this age of Internet are meaningless and toothless. If I persist a little, I will be within the book's reach.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Now afloat and refurbished!

Port life boat of Allcargo Laxmi being maneuvered

Starboard lifeboat of Allcargo Laxmi being maneuvered

Barring few final touches we are now nearing the completion of dry-docking. Yesterday the dock was flooded and we were set afloat along with two supply vessels. And what about the barge which was in our company? Well, it is just a dumb barge with no engines or machinery. But it is quite a big barge and is in the dock for considerable steel renewal and it will be quite some time before it gets completed. So, when the dock was being flooded the barge was allowed to stay and sink. Now the barge will give company to SCI tanker Palnimlay- next vessel in line to enter dry-dock.
Lifeboats of Allcargo Laxmi undergoing five yearly tests

                       We had chance to maneuver both the lifeboats in water with ship staff, while carrying out the five-yearly mandatory tests. As usual the hull has been painted and all other repairs have been carried out.
Letters of old name lying on dry dock gangway

The letters representing the old name of the vessel on the bows and stern were sliced off and the new name Allcargo Laxmi was planted by bead welding and painting. Previously, the name was just stenciled over the old projecting letters and did not present a very imposing look. But now, the name looks sovereign and prominent.
Letters representing old name have been taken off
                       The vessel has also been bedecked with company’s name on ship’s sides amidships. Starboard side of the funnel, which was earlier blank, has also been decorated with company’s logo.  
Freshly painted name Allcargo Laxmi within bead welding on bows
Company's name Allcargo painted prominently on sides amidships
Funnel of Allcargo Laxmi adorned with company's logo
Allcargo Laxmi all set to be afloat

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Low and dry, sitting on blocks

Allcargo Laxmi sitting on blocks at Colombo dry-dock
By late evening, on the day of entering the dry-dock, the water had been pumped out and our vessel Allcargo Laxmi was sitting on blocks in the company of three other vessels. The dock is quite big and four rounds each of up and down are a good work out for me at this age. I try to take one in the morning and two to three later in the day.
Anchor chain being ranged in dry-dock
Marine growth has been scraped off, thickness measurements are almost complete and sand blasting will commence soon. Preparations are also being made to unship the rudder as the propeller shaft has to be taken out for survey and inspection. On most ships the shaft can be drawn within the vessel making the removing of rudder unnecessary. But in our case the design is such as will require the shaft to be taken outward thus necessitating the removal of rudder as well.
Four vessels in the dry-dock. One supply vessel and barge in the foreground and another supply vessel and Allcargo Laxmi in the background
Anchor chains has been removed from the bitter end and have been ranged for calibration and inspection. There is lot of hustle and bustle in the dry-dock as hundreds of people from yard workshops are attending four vessels at the same time in the same dry-dock.
It is quite interesting to know as to how the areas coming near the edge of a block are inspected and how a block is removed or shifted.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Allcargo Laxmi enters dry-dock at Colombo

The dock dried up after sailing of APJ Jad and the blocks being arranged
Two days back, APJ Jad an Indian flag vessel had sailed out of Colombo dry-dock after completion of her docking surveys and repairs. We were waiting for her to sail out for us to enter the dry-dock. While waiting the repair work went on as we waited on yard berth.
Water being pumped in to flood the dry-dock
The yard is quite big and we are altogether four vessels in the same dry-dock. One is our own vessel Allcargo Laxmi, two are supply vessels and one is barge. The barge and one supply vessel had entered yesterday itself and the other supply vessel entered this morning followed by Allcargo Laxmi.
Allcargo Laxmi entering the dry-dock. Supply vessel seen next to her
Flooding takes place in about two hours, while it took about seven hours to pump the dock dry. Almost a day was consumed for arranging the distribution of blocks for sitting of the four vessels.
Hinged gate of the dry-dock being pulled to close the dock
Colombo dry-dock is quite busy and we were told that they are booked till 2020.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sri Lanka versus India

We have spent almost a month now in Colombo dock yard. Our vessel Allcargo Laxmi is still undergoing special surveys and the related repairs.We have had chance to visit the city and walk the roads and roam the markets and bazaars. I cannot help mentioning few pertinent and prominent points in comparison to our own country, India. The points worth noting are:

  1. Pedestrians have the right of way over the vehicles. Instinctively, I stopped to avoid running the risk of being run over by an approaching vehicle, when I was crossing a road. But the vehicle stopped and motioned me to continue crossing the road. Wow! So our 'insignificant; neighbour has lesson to teach us. We all know that, in India we not only run the risk of being run over by speeding vehicles, we also stand the chance of being reprimanded by the drivers for the mistake of crossing the road. 
  2. I also noticed that the vehicles engage in lane driving. They never hurry to overtake and nor do they honk needlessly. I realized the conspicuousness of the absence of honking, as I enjoyed long walks on the road pavements, which of course were not encroached upon by illegal vendors and hawkers.
  3. The literacy rate in Sri Lanka is 98%. Unbelievable! I do not have the exact rate of literacy in India, but I am sure that it is nowhere near 98%. No use sending satellites in space and firing missiles.
  4. All Sri Lankans have access to drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities.
  5. Health care and education up to graduation level is absolutely free. One can pursue engineering or opt for medicine and choose to become engineer or doctor free of cost. In words of the IRS surveyor: "It does not matter whether one wants bandage for an injury to finger or needs to undergo bypass heart surgery, the treatment is free.
I think there is no harm learning a thing or two from our little known neighbour. Our ministers and babus can speak to their counterparts and ask them about their management and administrative techniques.   

Monday, 11 June 2012

Allcargo Laxmi at Colombo for dry-dock and renewal surveys.

Everything went as planned and we were alongside in Colombo yard berth on 28th of May, the day our certificates were expiring. We did anchor for few hours before berthing. The passage from Tuticorin to Colombo, though very short was marked with rolling and pitching.
Buddha monument at Colombo
  After few days at yard berth we were shifted to another berth in Colombo port. This berth was giving a close-up view of the city. Especially the twin towers of world trade centre, Buddha monument, Hilton hotel and the building of Bank of Ceylon (BOC) are very conspicuous and embellish the Colombo skyline in an enchanting manner.
Cruise ship for tourists by at Colombo harbour
I thought that there was only one world trade centre, comprising of twin towers, of New York, USA. But there are many in various countries. I just happened to see this one in Colombo.
View of world trade centre and the monument
Buddha monument is cream in colour and lies within the precincts of the Colombo port and is thrown open to visitors in controlled manner. It is very close to sea coast and is a conspicuous landmark from sea side.
I have noticed tremendous movement of container ships, while looking around casually. But, they say, the 80% of the boxes are trans-shipment cargo and are meant for India. The infrastructure for container handling is more organized and efficient than we have in our country. Mundra is coming up fast. Cochin is trying but the initiatives are stalled by labour union problems and bureaucratic hurdles.
Another view of Colombo city from Allcargo Laxmi
We have already spent about 2 weeks here. The work is going on at its desired pace, though interspersed with interruptions caused by shifting between berths.We hope to finish the docking and renewal surveys by the end of this month or the first week of the next..Though SW monsoon came with a bang and we experienced good rain and thunderous showers, but is has been all quiet for last five days. It is hot and humid outside, but AC is doing its job satisfactorily.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bentonite: From Mundra to New Mangalore

View from Allcargo Laxmi: Mundra port active and growing

.Soon before iron ore discharging was to complete from Allcargo Laxmi at Kandla, we received instructions to proceed to Mundra, another Gujarat’s upcoming port, for loading Bentonite in bulk. No body was pleased to hear that. But work is work and that is to be done. The reason for the displeasure is the mess; cargo of Bentonite creates on the ship. The entire vessel gets washed in pale yellow fine powder’s coating. The cargo is slippery too and is difficult to be washed away. One whole day is consumed in getting rid of the residue.
Allcargo Laxmi loading Bentonite at Mundra 
                 Bentonite is a kind of weathered volcanic ash or clay with varied industrial uses. The word Bentonite takes its name from a place named Fort Benton in U.S.A., where the clay was first discovered and put to use. The clay comes in variety of forms each with its own unique characteristics.  For examples a type swells on coming in contact with water and is used as a sealant.
Weather was fine on this return voyage
              Anyway, we spent about 16 hours amid a cloud of Bentonite dust and sailed on full tropical marks towards N.Mangalore. The first day was again characterized by moderate winds and swell but a reprieve came on second day and weather continued to be fine and pleasant till arrival New.Mangalore.

Allcargo Laxmi  entering New Mangalore harbour minutes after sun rise