P.GROUSTRA # 2225  – 1963

Whilst being a marine surveyor I was also an appointed surveyor for the Liberian Ship Registry (also for 15 years) during which time I must have averaged at least one inspection a week, sometimes 3 or 4, as LA/Long Beach are big ports. Anyway, on one such occasion I was called to do the annual Liberian Safety inspection on a Mobil Tanker manned by Indian Officers and crew. These ships are always in excellent shape with regards to the Liberian Safety requirements. One of our duties was to observe and record each officers’ Liberian or National license. On this fine day (which it always is in LA.) I was doing just that, checking licenses whilst seated in the Captain’s cabin with the Master and his very attentive wife in attendance. I enjoyed these inspections and always managed to make light of an inspection by cracking a joke or sharing a “sea story” whilst conveying to them the seriousness of the inspection at hand.

Having looked and recorded the licenses for the deck department, I proceeded to inspect the engineer’s licenses. To my surprise I noticed that four of the five engineers on board had “Chief Engineer’s Licenses”. I looked again and then looked up, and with the captain noticing a concerned look on my face, and with his wife looking on I said:

“Captain, too many Chiefs on this ship, not enough Indians !”

The captain looked me straight in the eye, got a serious look on his face and said,:

“I can ensure you Mr. Surveyor, we are all Indians” …………. For a moment I was at a loss of words, turned and looked out the porthole following which the captain’s wife burst out laughing and quickly explained to her husband what I had meant. He then relaxed his stare at me and joined in the laughter. So another inspection was done in good spirit followed by fire and boat drills and a good lunch on board.

In addition, I also inspected very many cruise ships in the Los Angeles Harbour, most having Italian Officers. These cruise ships do 7 and 14 days cruises out of Los Angeles and are inspected on a quarterly basis at pre arranged times so as to have the U.S. Coast Guard in attendance. Despite the pre arranged times the very suggestion of Fire and Boat drill whilst in port always appeared to catch the officers completely off guard (although the crew were already observed to be walking around with lifejackets as you make your way up to the bridge) Surprise glances at this “tough inspector” (who is just there to do his pre arranged job) following which the officers, in their starched white uniforms, would move to the other side of the bridge where a hastily convened meeting was held between themselves (excluding the surveyor) after which they would turn around, face the surveyor with big smiles and say “Sure, anything you want sir, perhaps a cup of coffee first ?” This happened so many times and I could never understand why they would do this nearly every time. The outcome was always the same, an excellent drill with everyone in attendance ready to test whatever the inspection required as they know what the IMO requirements are and probably do these drills every second or third day as they do such short trips and have frequent crew changes. And now they have to do the drill one more time, for “Inspectora Liberiana” who does not even live in Monrovia !