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Look at my Gry Maritha Pictures

Download the Tecnecon report (pdf) by independent consultants who reciewed the  new service and reported to the directors and to shareholders the effectivness and economic results, confirmeong a reduction in direct shipping costs in th eregion of 15.4 % 

 Introduction of Gry Maritha provided a vast improvement in the standard and costs of the freight service to the islands. In particular the use of a reception warehouse at Penzance where goods could be properley documented and sorted, proper chill and freezer facilities for fresh and fozen foods,and small parcels stowed properly in pallet boxes causing much less damage than previously.

No one likes change and there was much resistence on the islands, including by company staff and even some Directors. The success of the service is due to the hard work and enthusiasm by those staff who committed themselves to making it all work, in particular I must mention:

Captain John Gooding who brought to us his extensive experience of coastal and near continental cargo shipping and a great enthusiasm for his ship.

 Sid ("speaking") my Penzance warehouse manager.

 Harlod Bowden and his team of dockworkers who in a very short time coped with changes in custom and practice that had pertained for fifty or more years 

Alwyn Richards my freight department manager, who spent many hours on the telephone co-ordinating shipments and deliveries etc.

The following is an extract from a much larger account of my time with the company orginally written in 1992.

9          PURCHASE OF "GRY MARITHA"

 

9.1       The Board felt that the trial of the new system had been a success and we had learned sufficient to carry on the same method of winter operation for 1988/89, with several improvements including a twice weekly sailing programme. Although this was more costly it was felt it would provide a better service for fresh food and relieve some of the pressure that had been put on the air freight service.

 

9.2       Another success had been the programme of self maintenance that we had undertaken on the Scillonian while laid up at Penzance during the winter of 1987/88. This work was supervised by me, being the Executive Director on the spot, and achieved significant savings compared with previous years when annual refit work had to be bought in and completed in the shortest time possible in order to minimise inconvenience to the Islands with the ship withdrawn from service. On some occasions in previous years refits had involved no shipping service to the Islands for three weeks or more!

            This problem no longer occurred with the new system.

 

9.3       I arranged to charter the Jenka again for the 1988/89 Winter using the same Danish captain and crew. One of the major cost savings was in dock labour. This is expanded in more detail in later paragraphs. One change I introduced was that the ship's crew were responsible for operating the ship's crane, thus breaking a long standing practice in the Company whereby previously dock labour both at P.Z. and St. Mary's regarded crane operation as "dockwork".

 

9.4       The Tecnecon recommendation had been to buy a ship, the two years of chartering had proved the practicality of the system, and the figures showed that overall cost savings for a full years operation were about ,90,000, a significant figure. I produced updated costings on Tecnecon and the Board decided that the two year trial had proved the efficacy of the new system and instructed management to look for a suitable freight coaster to buy.

 

9.5       I felt that if we were going to purchase a ship then we should also review our cargo handling systems to reduce labour costs as much as possible and to offer an improved service to customers, particularly the reception facilities at Penzance quay. For 20 years the Company had used small containers which were designed originally to fit the hold of their then existing ship the Scillonian 2, rather than for maximum efficiency. It was apparent to me through my contacts in the Dock Labour Scheme that there could be a great saving in labour costs by changing to a palletised system or to a full container system using standard international size containers.

 

9.6       Through my contacts in the shipping world I had deduced that we were most likely to find a suitable ship either from Danish owners or from Scandinavia. As far back as 1980 I had read details of the Norwegian coastal shipping services and methods. The requirements of their services were very similar to ours, relatively small quantities to be shipped at frequent intervals to destinations with only basic shore side handling facilities. See exhibit # 9.6 which is an extract from an article that I had circulated to Directors in 1981. I made contact with a number of ship brokers and also with my friend Lars Jacobson, Marine consultant of Haugesund Norway. Lars, in turn put me in contact with a major Norwegian broker. In April 1989 I received details of a small Norwegian Pallet carrying ship "Gry Maritha". I passed details to my other Directors who showed some interest. It was decided that we should go to look at the ship, but on further enquiry I found that the owners had withdrawn her from sale.

 

9.7       In early May I received details of her similar sister ship which was equipped to handle international standard 20 tonne containers. With the backing of the Board I arranged for Christopher and myself to visit Norway and view the ship at Stavanger. This we did in company with my Norwegian friends. The ship was in "medium condition", requiring some repair and maintenance work. We reported back to the Board who instructed me to negotiate for her purchase. The owners proved very difficult to deal with and would not commit themselves to a firm offer and eventually negotiations had to be broken off.

 

9.8       In June "Gry Maritha" came back on the market and the Board instructed me to go and view her, this time Christopher intimating that he did not wish to go. I visited the ship while she was in drydock and refitting at Kolvereid a small village North of Trondheim. I carried out a full survey myself, took the ship on a short sea trial and opened preliminary negotiations with the owner who was also the ship's captain. The ship was equipped with a "Macgregor" side shifter pallet lift and a 5 tonne crane. Very few ships on the market of the size we required were equipped with suitable cranes ,this one was. The side shifter was an added bonus and was exactly the system that had caught my imagination in 1980. On my return from Norway I discussed the ship in detail with the board and they instructed me to firm up negotiations and agree a price with the owner. By late July I had agreed the deal at a price of ,650,000, (so far as I recall,I do not now have access to the relevant paper), to take over the ship at Trondheim in early September. I arranged to forward purchase the currency and agreed the contract terms through my agents in Norway.

            Concurrently with these negotiations I arranged ship mortgage finance for the purchase through my contacts in the financial world. I obtained an extremely good deal in terms of interest (2.5% over base) and repayment period (10 years) with Messrs Lombard. See exhibit # 9.9 which is a newspaper article about the new ship. 

 

9.10     The Company had no storage facilities at Penzance or covered accommodation for the reception of goods. This had always placed a major constraint on operations and for many years goods could only be received for direct loading onto the ship. I realised that the Gry Maritha was small enough to be able to berth at the only quayside warehouse available at Penzance, in fact the only such warehouse nearer to the Islands than Falmouth. With minor modifications we would be able to load the ship direct from the warehouse using the side shifter pallet hoist. Accordingly I commenced negotiations with the owners who were Penwith District Council who were also the harbour authority. The negotiations were tough, the Company having had a hard deal from the authority for many years (see below); nevertheless a figure was agreed and correspondence exchanged such that we would expect to take over the warehouse (previously a fish market) in time for the arrival of the new ship.

 

 

9.11     Once the contract for the new ship was signed I advertised for a master in the local press. I prepared job specifications for all the crew and draft terms of employment. I was determined that the operation of this new ship would not be dogged by demarcation and union disputes, either by the crew or by the dockers at Penzance or  St Mary's and specified a total flexible working scheme which included the provision that the crew did all cargo work on board. This was another innovation for the Company. On the Scillonian crew stood by and watched while shore based staff did all the cargo work!

            I prepared a short list of applicants and Christopher joined me for the interviews and we selected Capt. John Gooding of Penzance. I then advertised for crew and these were appointed by me in conjunction with the new captain. I also arranged for an additional mate solely for the international delivery voyage from Trondheim to Penzance.

 

9.12     I felt it right that the ship should be registered in the U K, the Board agreed and I made the necessary arrangements with the Department of Transport for provisional safety and load line certificates under the merchant shipping acts. This also required application to the Registrar of British Ships, Bureaux Veritas in London and Oslo and the British Consul in Kristiansund and the Norwegian Ship Register in Bronnoysund the ship's original port of registry.

            I opened an account with the Nordbanken Bank in Trondheim so that I could conduct transactions there when dealing with the final arrangements. I made contact with a notary in Oslo to help with the legal side and arranged for my friend Lars Jacobsen of Haugesund to meet me in Trondheim to assist with the takeover survey. This would be done with the ship afloat as I had already done a complete dry dock survey on my first visit.

            Finally I arranged provisional insurance cover through my broker at Lloyd's of London to cover the voyage home and subsequent trading in U K waters.

 

9.13     It had been the Company's practice to allow their ships to "dry out" (ie sit on the bottom at low tide), at St. Mary's while discharging cargo. This is not a good practice because it can cause bottom damage to the ship's hull. I hoped that we would be able to operate the new ship without drying out but as a precaution I devised a scheme to strengthen the hull of the new ship before she went into service and arranged for this to be done at Holman's Yard at Penzance towards the end of September. I also drew up details of modifications to her auxiliary engine cooling systems to enable these to be run when the ship was dry, necessary to provide power for cargo and safety equipment.

 

9.14     With all the preliminary arrangements completed I flew to Trondheim with Capt.Gooding and one other crew member in early September 1989 to complete the transaction, train the crew and bring the ship home. All decisions about final takeover and completion were in my hands. We spent a week in Trondheim making the arrangements which included certain repair work in conjunction with the owner prior to takeover and a number of minor modifications to comply with U K rules for the International voyage home. This work was arranged with a shipyard in Trondheim. I also purchased various new cargo handling equipment and a full size freezer container for installation in the ship's hold. To finalise the transaction I had to fly to Kristiansund to countersign papers with the British Consul.

 

9.15     I took possession of the Gry Maritha on behalf of the Steamship Company on about the 16 September 1989. I sent a press release home  for local consumption mentioning the links with Scilly and Trondheim which arose in Viking times via the Norse king Olaf Tregusson whose statue stands in the main square at Trondheim.

            See exhibit # 9.15, which is a news item from the local Cornishman newspaper.

 

9.16     We provisioned ship for the voyage home but a snag occurred because one of the crew that should have flown out with the "second wave" of crew to join the ship for the homeward voyage failed to turn up. In order to make up the complement and to avoid delay, I signed on articles myself to work ship for the voyage. We encountered bad weather off Norway and put in to Haugesund to await passage weather. While there I arranged for local engineers to carry out some more of the necessary modifications to the ship in order to save time later on.

 

9.17     On approach to Penzance after 5 days at sea we called up the Penzance Harbour Master to arrange for docking. I was appalled to have him tell us that the warehouse berth that I had arranged was not available and it would be inconvenient for us to use it. I have not since been able to ascertain what had happened during my absence but this was the first of many unnecessary obstacles put in the way of the new ship's operation by various authorities both on the mainland and at Scilly.

            We therefore anchored the ship in Penzance bay while I carried out on the radio telephone, lengthy (and sometimes quite unnecessarily acrimonious on his part), negotiations with the relevant director at Penwith District Council. He acknowledged the agreement for the warehouse but was now requiring a premium fee from us above the published harbour tariff to moor the ship alongside the warehouse. The outcome of my negotiations was that the Council honoured their provisional agreement with me and withdrew their demand for the premium. We were allowed to dock at the warehouse berth at normal rates. A major triumph for the Company which paved the way for the enormous improvements in the standard of cargo service which followed.

 

9.18     The drydock booking at Holman's yard at Penzance was delayed for a week because of additional work required of them by the previous ship in the queue. This gave me the opportunity to arrange the modifications to the warehouse to enable the ship to load cargo efficiently. This involved negotiations with the Council's structural engineer and a specialist building contractor to cut a new doorway through the wall (through reinforced concrete) and to design and have fabricated a removable steel  platform to allow fork lift trucks to feed the ship direct from the warehouse. All this was approved by the Harbour Authority and the work completed within three weeks, including the lease of the premises.

 

9.19     In june 1989 the Government had finally decided to abolish the dock labour scheme, and the advent of the new ship, and the mechanised warehouse enabled me to make full use of the re-organisation and redundancy provisions of the legislation to lay off all the Penzance dock labour force. I negotiated terms with the unions and the men such that all the men left the Company's employment at the end of the Scillonian's sailing season in mid October. This work was left entirely to me by the Directors, which I found particularly hard as over the years I had come to regard many of the men as personal friends. I found it particularly hurtful that the Company Chairman B.C.Ward did not see fit to join me in wishing the men farewell some of whom had worked for the Company for the whole of their working life.

 

9.20     It was the intention that the ship would carry a few passengers in the winter time when required because the Directors felt the Company had an obligation to the Islands if the air services were grounded by eg.fog etc. I felt that we could accommodate not more than two passengers in the crew accommodation. The Directors required the ship to carry up to 12 passengers if possible and so I devised a plan to convert a store room into a passenger cabin together with separate toilet facilities and the Board approved that this should be done.

   

9.21     The ship was then placed in Holman's Dry Dock for the bottom plating work, the cooling system modifications, surveys by class and Dept. of Trade surveyors and general overhaul of equipment to specifications that I had drawn up in consultation with the captain and the regulatory authorities. This work involved amongst others;

            Upgrading of the fire fighting system, including emergency fire pump to UK standards and turret mounted foam gun to cover the petrol cargo area.

            Conversion of the ships own fuel bunker system to enable her to carry fuel oil as cargo and pump it ashore on the Islands.

            Installation of a bulk liquid cargo system to handle light heating oil,(kerosene).

           

            Construction of special portable tanks to International Maritime Organisation Standards for the carriage of petrol and diesel fuel.

            Installation of fire detection and alarm systems.

           

            Installation of gas detectors in the hold because the ship would be carrying gas cylinders, petrol and cars.

            New SOLAS liferaft equipment to cover the additional passenger numbers.

 

            Installation of ships laundry.

 

            Installation of new VHF radio equipment.

 

            Installation of secondary engine and steering controls on the starboard bridge wing to enable the master to dock and undock in the very confined manoeuvring spaces at both ends of the route.

            Installation of emergency hand powered steering gear for use in case of power failure on board.

            Installation of up to date radar and navigationequipment, necessary because our service cuts directly across the busy shipping lanes west of Land's End.

            Installation of cellphone and weatherfax equipment.

            Installation of electrical transformers to enable the ship to draw power from the shore when moored at Penzance (Norwegian ships use a different voltage to U K).

            New electrical supplies in the warehouse to power the ship and the fork lift trucks.

 

 

9.22     At the same time I negotiated for the purchase and lease of new fork lift trucks to operate on the quay and in the warehouse and these were delivered in time to start the service.

 

9.23     The first voyage was in mid October and went well. I travelled with the ship to ensure everything went smoothly. Problems were encountered at St.Mary's. The Company's dockworkers there did not agree with the Company's new policy of running a separate cargo service. I believe they felt their jobs were under threat, which of course they were. They complained to Christopher who was the manager in charge there that the crew were too slow driving the crane and he was all set to put the dockworkers on board. This would have been a mistake and would have involved much increase in operating costs if allowed to go ahead. I managed to persuade him not to do that on the grounds that the crew were new to the ship and would soon get used to the new equipment and pick up speed. This proved correct and the vessel now discharges at a very high rate. This incident is mentioned because I believe it illustrates Christopher's lack of experience at that time in man management and transport and cargo handling in particular.

 

9.24     The first winter the ship encountered very bad weather for a number of weeks and voyages were delayed, and of course the Islanders as usual blamed the ship and the Company, not the weather! Nevertheless a good service was maintained.

 

9.25     The next problem came from a surprising quarter. The Duchy of Cornwall, who had been the original instigators of the proposal that the Company should buy a cargo ship started to make difficulties about whether she could dock at St. Mary's harbour from Easter to the Autumn. In fact the then harbour master told me that if he had his way the ship would not be allowed in the Islands at all! These actions were of course contrary to the regulations embodied in the Harbour Acts. We were told that the ship would only be allowed to dock at certain very restricted times during the day. These times did not allow for tides and would have prevented the ship from maintaining a regular schedule. I therefore worked out a completely new schedule which involved overnight sailings from Penzance and early morning,(5 AM), cargo working at Scilly. After much deliberation and quoting of our legal rights, the Duchy Authorities agreed to the new scheme but stipulated that the ship must always leave the harbour by 9.30 AM from Easter to October.

 

9.26     There was much opposition from the Islands to the new way of doing things, in particular they were not used to working with goods on pallets. Dockers hankered after the old labour intensive containerised system which involved double handling of nearly all cargo. In fact it was found that goods arrived in much better condition with much less damage than on the old system but it took some time to convince our customers. I voyaged with the ship on many occasions to iron out problems. I introduced an extra fork truck at Scilly to help with the work load and suggested to Christopher that we build a handling shed on the quay there. This was done and provided yet another improvement.

 

9.27     The freezer container proved a great success and the demand for refrigerated capacity leaped up to the point where I had to order three more units to cope with the demand. This freezer capacity enabled the accommodation trade on the Islands to expand their menus to the standards on the mainland not previously possible on the Islands. It also gave us the ability to ship chilled foods and meat under proper conditions. When I was first involved with the Company we had no freezer or chilled capacity. Frozen food was stuffed into an ordinary container and we hoped it arrived on the Islands before it thawed too much. If the Scillonian was delayed due to adverse weather or other failure the frozen food had to be condemned. Fresh meat was conveyed on open trays and I had to deal with frequent complaints from the public health authorities about non compliance with food hygiene regulations. The new systems on the new ship solved all these difficulties.

 

9.28     In the spring of 1990 it became apparent that the new Directors (see section 10 below), were not supporting the new way of doing things and were not supporting the Company management in their difficult task. Exhibit # 9.28a is a handbill about the 1990 season service. One Director repeatedly claimed that there was no way we could discharge a ship and depart by 9.30 AM. However I knew it was possible based on my experience over a number of years with the Dock Labour Scheme and my observations of similar operations in other ports, including during my three visits to Norway. The problems at St.Mary's quay continued. This was strictly Christopher's responsibility but he was very reluctant to take a positive stance and take control of his staff. I suggested to the Board that the best course would be to engage a work study specialist to advise on improvements. Christopher ridiculed this idea. In fact with hindsight I think now that he had no experience of formal work study methods and did not know what was meant. I had worked closely with work study professionals during my time in industry and distribution in Bristol.

 

            (The following is one example of the frustrating difficulties encountered. The ships cargo handling system is designed around goods being handled on pallets. I found that at St.Mary's the shore staff could not keep up with the speed the ship's hoist was depositing goods on the quay. Simple observation revealed that the shore side fork lift trucks were severely hampered by having to negotiate a gully or slot in the quay surface. This slot had been required years ago when the Scillonian used to stay overnight at St. Mary's in the winter time and was no longer required. It could easily be filled in with cement or tarmac and the problem eliminated. It took me two years of representations to my colleague, Christopher, to get him to have this simple improvement done. The actual repair job was about one hours work for one man!)

 

            Eventually it was agreed to engage TECNECON to carry out a study and report on the new ship and the new cargo system. See exhibit #9.28b

 

9.29     Tecnecon reported favourably on the new system and suggested some sensible fine tuning of some aspects. By the winter of 1990/91 the new cargo service was going well and favourably received by many customers particularly the main shippers and suppliers on the mainland and one of the critical Directors was moved to admit that he had been wrong in denigrating our capabilities.(G Langdon).

 

9.30     Some Islanders (including the wife of the Director R.J.Nicholls) were still voicing their criticism of the new system, and in the case of Mrs.Nicholls actively agitating some customers to use an opposing service. To answer the critics I recommended to the Board that we ask TECNECON to produce an abbreviated version of the report suitable for general distribution to shareholders and dealing specifically with the Gry Maritha. This was agreed and the report produced, see exhibit #9.30a. Again they reported very favourably and the figures at table two on page 5 of the report are particularly revealing, showing that the Company's financial results from shipping had changed from a loss of ,41,000 in 1986/87 to a profit of ,104,000 in 1989/90. This report was sent to all shareholders in April 1991. Exhibit # 9.30b is the accompanying letter most of which I drafted for Ward to send out with it.

 

9.31     During the winter the ship carried all goods for the Islands including milk. The following is an example of the emotional reaction of islanders to the new service in 1989. During a rough crossing we experienced a spillage of fuel oil into the lower hold which was empty of all cargo at the time. The spillage was cleared up and the hold steam cleaned. After the next voyage there was an outcry from the island milkman saying that the milk was contaminated with diesel oil. The milk had been carried in the cleaned hold. I enquired from the Unigate bottling plant on the mainland if it was possible for milk to pick up contamination through the carton and I was informed that it was not possible. Milk has been carried on diesel lorries for years. Next we tried an experiment and plunged a carton of milk into a bucket of diesel oil and left it there for twelve hours. On pouring it out afterwards a lay person was unable to detect any difference between the sample and one that had not been so treated. - The whole episode was akin to hysteria. see exhibit # 9.31, my report to Directors about it.

 

9.32     Having started the new system of early morning discharge at St Mary's in the spring of 1990 we then began to receive complaints from islanders about noise pollution. I spent several mornings at 5 AM walking around the Islands while the ship was working to try and detect the problem. I found that there was some noise from the crane winch which could be heard occasionally above the general natural ambience of noise on the Islands from the wind and the lapping of the waves on the shore. Using my contacts in Norway I devised some modifications to the winch and these were carried out at Penzance and the problem solved, nevertheless there were still complaints which again were groundless. The problem was then exacerbated by the Duchy of Cornwall who permitted their tenant of the restaurant on the quay to convert it to a hotel right in the middle of the cargo working area. The Council, three of whose members were Steamship Directors gave planning permission for the conversion. More complaints arose, not about the noise from the ship which was now abated but from the fork lift trucks. I contacted the truck manufacturers and arranged for the fitting of "hush kits". Complaints continued and on my next overnight visit I found that Christopher had permitted the drivers to switch on the warning bleepers which in fact were only necessary in the daytime when the public were about on the quay. This action was driving the hotel proprietor crazy! On my representations Christopher agreed to have the bleepers switched off.

 

9.33     During one of my overnight trips my wife received an anonymous phone call at 5 AM from someone complaining about the noise from "my ship". I eventually found out that the call had come from an employee of Christopher's father, the milkman, the same man who had wound up the hysteria about the contaminated milk.

 

9.34     I have spelt this section out in some detail to try and illustrate the difficulties one encounters when trying to implement change  and following on from what the non executive Board of Directors would have regarded as a simple decision to implement one proposal of the Graham Moss recommendations, namely to buy a coaster.

   

9.35     The introduction of this new service involved me in a great deal of extra work, including three trips to Norway many weekends and overnight duties. It was significant to me that yet again on the introduction of the new ship most Directors chose to take their holiday including Christopher who departed for three weeks one week after the new service began.

            In December 1989 it is mentioned in the minutes of a Board meeting that I had not been able to take a holiday because of the high workload. In the spring of 1990 I determined to have a short break, and left Penzance on a Thursday. Friday AM on coming down to breakfast at our hotel near Exeter there was a message for me to ring Christopher which I did. The Gry Maritha had suffered a failure in the Port Gearbox and returned to Penzance. He was in a panic because the ship had on board supplies for the weekend. He had instructed the ships relief master to put to sea on one engine. This would have caused major damage to the gear because the gearbox system was not suited to voyages on one engine because the propeller shafts were not fitted with "trailer oil pumps". I advised that the only way was to chain up the propeller to stop it turning, and in the circumstances the ship would make very slow headway into wind. I explained all this by telephone to the relief master who was on duty, Capt. Gooding being on leave. I cut short my holiday and returned to Penzance to supervise the repairs. This necessitated arranging delivery of a spare gearbox before the weekend shut down of suppliers, the removal of the ship's engine, engaging a specialist resin technician from London to attend on Sunday and a team of fitters to work over the weekend. The ship sailed on Monday after 48 hours of continuous repair work.

 

            I mention this incident in the context of the Company's refusal now to pay me my outstanding holiday pay !     

 

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