DAVID G. SELLARS ON THE WATERFRONT: More log ships coming to Port Angeles

THE BIG NEWS last week was the arrival, loading and departure of the cargo ship Koombana Bay.

It was the first large ship to take on logs in Port Angeles Harbor in a decade.

For those unable to view the activity aboard the Panamanian-flagged ship, which docked at Port of Port Angeles Terminal 3, you’ll get more chances in the next two months.

George Schoenfeldt, one of the three members of the Port of Port Angeles board of commissioners, told me that another ship will be taking on a load of logs from Port Angeles-based forest products company Merrill & Ring for the Asian market in April.

And there will be another log ship in May.

It’s a resurgence of an export operation that once was a regular happening in Port Angeles Harbor but for a variety of reasons has dropped off since 2000.

And for a lot of people on the waterfront as well as in the West End timber industry, the renewed activity is good news.

The ship comes in

In the predawn hours of Monday, the year-old Koombana Bay moored port side to Terminal 3.

The 554-foot ship arrived to load in excess of 2 million board feet of logs that were harvested mainly off private lands owned by Merrill & Ring on the North Olympic Peninsula.

None of the logs came off state-owned forestlands.

Stevedoring Services of America, whose local office in Port Angeles is managed by Rolf Hansen, contracted with Merrill & Ring to provide rigging, safety equipment and personnel from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to load the logs aboard ship.

Boyce Cardell, who lives in Everett and has worked with SSA for 43 years, took me aboard the Koombana Bay on Tuesday to get a close-up look at the process.

We went to the starboard side of the 01 level, where it was my good fortune to meet up with Shoenfeldt, who retired from the ILWU after a 37-year career.

George kindly took the time to explain the hubbub of activity that was going on in the water and aboard ship.

Teamwork required

It took 35 members of the ILWU working in concert to load the Koombana Bay — 14 of whom are from Port Angeles, including the operators of the four 30-metric-ton cranes aboard the ship.

Prior to logs being taken off trucks at the port’s log yard, the entire load is strapped together.

These strapped bundles of logs, each containing approximately 4,000 board feet, were formed into booms and taken to the loading area next to the ship by the tug, Port Susan, which is owned by Dunlap Towing.

Log broncs — small powerful tugs — operated by port personnel cut out the bundles and maneuvered them into smaller booms alongside the ship.

Longshore personnel, wearing cork boots fitted with sharp spikes similar to those found on golfers’ shoes, walked on the bundles of logs and used gaffs to place them alongside the ship.

When it came time to hoist a bundle into one of the ship’s five holds, the crane operator lowered the wire rigging over the side.

Longshore personnel standing on each end of a log bundle dropped the rigging into the water, placed it under each end of the bundle, then attached the bitter end of the rigging to the triangle block on the crane’s hoisting line.

The longshoreman stepped onto the next log bundle to be processed, and away the former one went.

They known their stuff

While watching these people handling the logs, I could see many opportunities for a calamity.

But these capable people are aware of the many dangers involved in this job and proceed accordingly — although I understand one worker got a little behind in his footing and fell into the water.

The 2 million-plus board feet of logs are for a number of customers in Asia.

Each customer’s logs get spraypainted-IDs on the end of each log bundle.

When it comes time to remove the logs from the ship’s holds in Korea, the blue logs go to customer A, the orange logs belong to customer B and so on.

The loading of Koombana Bay was done by 3 p.m. Wednesday, and at 6 p.m. she got under way for Longview to fill out her load with logs from Weyerhaeuser.

When the holds are filled, 26-foot stanchions along each side of the cargo deck will be raised and logs will be stowed between them and on top of the self-sealing watertight hatches.

In total, the ship will head to Asia with about 5.5 million board feet of logs.

Reminiscing

When I left Koombana Bay, I ran into Bob Cosa, who worked on the Port Angeles waterfront loading ships for 39 years.

Bob first came to Port Angeles during World War II as a Navy seaman.

When the war ended, he went home to New Jersey — but after a couple of years he returned to the place he had fallen in love with, Port Angeles.

He joined up with an earlier iteration of the ILWU and began working on the docks in late 1948 or 1949, loading ships with logs, dimensioned lumber, newsprint from Crown Zellerbach and pulp rolls and bales from Rayonier.

Bob said when he started in Port Angeles, he was working with a tough bunch of individuals, some of whom were born in the 1880s and 1890s.

They used 5- and 10-ton gear to load ships in 11-hour shifts, and the work was very dangerous, Bob recalled.

Today, Bob enjoys his retirement, loves Port Angeles and said he couldn’t live without the constant smell of the fresh ocean breeze.

Bob continues to attend the monthly ILWU meetings and said the younger members tolerate his presence and reminiscing.

I suspect far many more than a few appreciate this Irishman’s love for his trade and relating the history and knowledge from the old shore hands that dates back well over 100 years.

Out in the harbor

On Friday, Tesoro Petroleum bunkered the Cypriot-flagged Akili.

She is a 623-foot bulk cargo ship that took on cargo in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. After her refueling, her next destination is Longkou, China.

On Saturday, Tesoro refueled the 600-foot Sea¬­Bulk Pride, a petroleum products tanker that was launched as Agathonissos and was formerly known as the HMI Nantucket Shoals.

________

David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain’s mate who enjoys boats and strolling the waterfront.

Items involving boating, port activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome. E-mail [email protected] or phone him at 360-417-3736.

His column, On the Waterfront, appears every Sunday.

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