24-Jul-2008 -- We are underway from the Mississippi River to Puerto Cabello in Venezuela. The cargo is a full load of Yellow corn which we received at the Zen-Noh Elevator at Convent, LA, which is located at Mile 163.5 Above Head of Passes, thus half way between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It is the most modern and fastest grain loading place of all grain silos on the Mississippi River. The loading rate is a staggering 3,000 tons/hr (other elevators reach hardly more than a 900 tons/hr).
After a cargo hold is full, the corn is trimmed (levelled even) with a small bulldozer, and after about 15 hours all the cargo is loaded. Once completed, the exact volume of the cargo has to be determined, and the so called "Mates Receipt" is issued by the shipper (exporter, seller). The Mates Receipt is a substantial document with which the captain of the ship confirms to having loaded on board the said quantity in apparent good order and condition, and subsequently brokers will make of the most important, even "holy" document: The "Ocean Bill of Lading", which is a fully negotiable title and representing the cargo.
Shippers, in our case the Zen-Noh Grain Corporation, will produce the Bill of Lading to their bank and immediately receive the amount of money which the receivers in Venezuela have deposited in their previously issued "Irrevocable Letter of Credit". Once shippers have received their money, the Bill of Lading will immediately be dispatched by a Courier Service to the customers in Venezuela. This is to safeguard that the Bill of Lading will be for sure available once the ship has physically arrived in her port of destination. Upon the ship has arrived, the receiver, duly holding and producing the Bill of Lading to the Captain, is then entitled to receive his cargo. Usually it is not allowed to discharge and deliver the cargo to anyone not being able to produce the original Bill of Lading.
In our case I confirmed with my signature to having received the quantity of 1,194,818 - 12/56 Bushels (U.S. Winchester) of yellow corn. One U.S. Winchester bushel is 1.2445 ft³ (not to be confused with the Canadian Imperial Bushel). The "Standard Bushel Test Weight" of yellow corn has been set with 56 Pounds/Bushel. So our cargo weight is 66,909,820 Pounds, which equals to 30,350.095 metric tons, - and this is the amount the consignee in Venezuela has paid for and wishes to receive, ... if it's less, then: "grande problema".
To carry grain over the Sea is not such an easy task at it may appear: Grain has been carried aboard ships for thousands of years, and as one of the major items in the maritime market, it attracted attention because of its importance and the special problems it presented. The tendency of grain, when carried in its bulk natural state (i.e. not in bags), to shift within the cargo space of a ship moving in a seaway represents a very high hazard to ship and crew. Consequently, the problems raised by such carriage are often the subject of national and international requirements.
The shortest route from the Mississippi River down to Puerto Cabello would be a track west of Cuba, thus rounding Cabo San Antonio (see my visit to 22N 85W). But this was not the governing fact when I decided to choose the slightly longer route (about 70 nautical miles/130 km) through the Old Bahama Channel. Currents from Cabo San Antonio down to the north coast of South America are usually very adverse and much stronger than in the Old Bahama Channel, the Windward Passage, and subsequently down to Venezuela. Making a far better speed on this route, despite the longer distance, I will consume about 6,000 liters/1,600 gallons less fuel and arrive about 6 hours earlier.
A gallon of fuel actually is about 1.50 $, so I save roughly 2,500 $. Not much, compared to other operating costs, but saving 2,500 bucks rather than spending them, equals already to 5,000 $. :-)
Last but not least, hurricane "Dolly" is just moving towards the south coast of Texas, leaving behind herself high seas and swell, - which belong also to these things, I do not really need. ;-)
The Old Bahama Channel, in which this Confluence is located, separates the reefs and cays on the north side of Cuba from the south side of Great Bahama Bank.
To the SE we see the rather low Cuban coast, fringed by cays. To SSE the tanker "Carli Bay" is overtaking us. To South we see some sandy beaches, and to SW we can make out the closest town, Nuevitas.
Nuevitas is situated in the Bahía de Nuevitas at the root of the south side of Península de Guincho. The port, of which we can see the sugar plant, lies on the north side of this peninsula. Puerto Nuevitas is one of the largest sugar exporting ports in Cuba.