Death of a Supertanker

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Authors: Antony Trew
were discussing ship’s business in the Master’s dayroom.
    ‘We’re now two assistant stewards short,’ said the Captain. ‘Transferred one to the bulk carrier with Middleton last week. We’ve managed without him, but this morning we discharged Alvarez to hospital. Acute duodenal ulcer. Bad, they say. We’ll need a replacement before sailing.’
    Kostadis said, ‘Can you manage that, Lars?’
    ‘Yes. I’ll see to it.’ Hammarsen made an entry in his notebook. ‘I’ve a man in mind.’
    ‘Who’s that?’ enquired the Captain.
    ‘Remember Beau Rivage? Where we lunched on Sunday.’
    ‘Yes. Up on the ridge.’
    ‘The waiter who looked after us. Piet Pieterse. He’s the man.’
    Captain Crutchley appeared doubtful, but said nothing.
    ‘I’ve been using Beau Rivage for several years,’ went on Hammarsen. ‘He’s always looked after me well. For the last few months he’s been begging me to find him a ship. Wants to get to Europe. Comes from the Cape. His brother got into some sort of political trouble and is in prison. That was the last straw for Pieterse. He wants to get out.’
    Kostadis looked up from under bushy eyebrows. ‘Will the authorities let him go?’
    ‘Yes. I know the people here. There won’t be any problem. He has a clean sheet. No trade union snags either, with the ship Cypriot-registered.’
    ‘I see.’ Captain Crutchley was thoughtful. ‘When will he join?’
    ‘The day before sailing,’ said Hammarsen. ‘In say three or four days. Can you manage until then?’
    ‘We’ll have to,’ said the Captain.
    Kostadis looked at his watch, stood up. ‘Don’t move, gentlemen. I’ve an appointment with the marine surveyor and the contractors at eleven-thirty. Must go now.’
    ‘Very well,’ said Captain Crutchley. ‘There’s not much left to discuss.’
    When Kostadis had gone, Hammarsen said, ‘There’s a hardworking go-getter for you. No wonder he’s so highly thought of in Zurich.’
    ‘A busy man.’ The Captain said it with studious indifference. ‘What about the other half?’
    ‘Thank you. Gin and tonic.’ Hammarsen handed over his glass. Crutchley refilled it from the silver salver on the coffee table between the armchairs and passed it back.
    ‘Not having another, Captain?’
    Crutchley held up his half-finished drink. ‘Still going strong.’
    Hammarsen looked at him curiously, wondering what was going on behind the dark glasses. He had long ago decided that this was a strange, unpredictable man – a loner if ever there was one. ‘So McLintoch is happy with the progress of the repair work,’ he prompted.
    ‘Satisfied. Not happy.’
    ‘Any doubts about keeping to the provisional sailing date? The twenty-sixth?’
    ‘No,’ said Crutchley.
    Hammarsen raised his glass. ‘Cheers then, Captain. That’s good. I’ll confirm with the port authorities this afternoon. If that meets with your approval.’ He took a printed form from his briefcase, unfolded it and inserted the date. ‘Provisional notification of departure,’ he said. ‘Doesn’t commit us and we don’t have to indicate a time until the day before sailing. Even then it’s subject to final confirmation. Has to be signed by the Master. I wonder if you’d mind?’
    Captain Crutchley took the form, pulled himself out of the armchair. ‘I’ll get my pen,’ he said.
    Hammarsen took one from his pocket. ‘Use mine, Captain.’
    ‘Thank you. I’ll get my own.’ The Captain went through to the bedroom, took off his dark glasses and studied the form with a magnifying glass. Satisfied, he signed it.
    He went back to the dayroom, handed it to Hammarsen. ‘Our future movements. Still no news?’
    ‘None, I’m afraid.’ Hammarsen nodded sympathetically. ‘Kostadis says London and Zurich are making every effort to find a charter. I’m afraid these are difficult times.’
    Through his sun-glasses Captain Crutchley tried to read theblurred image of the agent’s face but he could find no clue

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