- Captain Albert's Website and Blog -

Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

24 April 2012; Cartagena, Columbia.

During the night the lousy weather abated somewhat and with only at stiff breeze left we arrived at 08.30 at the Boca Chica pilot station which is located at the entrance of the bay leading to Cartagena. Port Control was not very much in control at all, as although we had been cleared for a direct sail in, we were advised 10 minutes before passing the sea buoy that there was a ship coming out. The fairway is already almost too small for one ship going in or out, let alone for passing each other between the buoys. So we were told to slow down and wait and pass Red to Red (port to port). The out coming ship went south and thus ended up on our starboard side, Green to Green. So I refused to move until the situation was cleared up about what this ship was going to do, as port control had ordered Red to Red. The ship did not answer on the VHF when we tried to raise them and thus waiting was the best answer. See what she does. This was not up to the liking of Port Control who now suddenly started screaming that we had to proceed which I refused to do until it was completely clear what the other ship was up to. The pilot who had arrived on board took up the cause and with a lot of Spanish screaming going on, we eventually sailed into Cartagena Bay. I thought it wise to do it all myself this time, so the pilot could keep a close eye on the communication with a less than helpful Port Control. That turned out for the best, as while I was conning, the Officer of the Watch detected two other large ships moving in the bay. They could be in our way when we came closer to the dock. So the pilot went back on the phone again and eventually everything was sorted out. But all the excitement cost me another 15 minutes and in the end we were docked just on time, instead of my 15 minutes (or more)early which I prefer so the authorities can clear the ship before the official arrival time is due.

web university About half of the graduates assembled on the stairs in the Atrium. (photo courtesy, ships photographer Thomas Ongar)

So today we had something of interest on our hands again. HAL University at Sea graduation. About two years ago the company started an education program with courses geared towards improving the knowledge and skills of those on board. Some of these courses are self learning on our intranet and some are taught by our Human Resources Manager. In the past year we have been running these courses on a continual basis. Now our Human Resources Manager is going home and so I thought it might be a nice idea to honor all the graduates (varying in rank from Hotelmanager all the way to the concessionaires on board) with a little party, a thank you and a group photo. In total there were 89 who passed the courses Leadership Academy or Supervisory Excellence. We could not get them all in the photo as some had already left the ship and some of deck and engine department were busy with bunkering and safety drills.

That bunkering caused us a delay on departure. World legislation is changing to allow less and less sulpher in the oil, which is a good move as it reduces pollution. The problem is that not every port can deliver low sulpher fuel yet. For once legislation is moving faster than commerce. As a result we have to bunker in Cartagena although the bunker barge here is always a challenge. So it was today. We loaded until the very last minute and then the loading master ran into an argument with our chief engineer about the amount loaded. Normally there is always a little discrepancy due to meter readouts and oil temperatures which causes the volume and thus the weight to be different between the moment it goes out of the barge to the moment it goes into the tank of the ship. With small differences this can be easily sorted out, with larger amounts being questioned it takes time. It took awhile this time before an agreement could be reached and I could race down the Bay again. Making sure that the pilot stayed with the VHF, so he could advise me of any traffic that might get in our way. This time, forewarned, we knew ahead of time all the traffic coming in and going out, and we made it out off the bay without delays.

Then we started our two days at sea, heading towards our final port of call and the end of the cruise, Fort Lauderdale. The weather will be windy, but it should be sunny.


  1. patricia sassenberg

    April 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Captain You’ve been very busy this cruise, with the missed port, time changes going thru the canal, and sreaming at the port control in cartagena, I think you’ve gone over your hours everyday.Love your blog you complete my day.

  2. Dear Captain,
    I just was informed that the MS Statendam will be using the new “Broadway Complex/Annex/Pier when you visit San Diego next time. The MS Amsterdam and Celebrity Infinity will be at B Street. I hope that you will comment on the “new” facility after you’ve had a chance to check it out. It has garned years of complaints, and is seldom used even though it cost more than $28 million dollars to build. Basically it is now an “overflow” pier and can only be used when 3 ships are in town. I hope you have a very fine visit in Ft. Lauderdale.

    • Hello David,

      Thank you for that info. We do not get a season schedule so this is new to me. I will certainly have a good look as I have never docked there.

      Thank you for reading my blog

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. Hello Skipper !
    Just taking your wife & m-in-l to Torquay.
    Love your blog & enjoying the ride & good conversation.
    NCL can take a back seat from now on.

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