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Route 66


 Is the Sky the limit?   
It was one of the most interesting assignments I worked on: writing the text for the recent publication 'Forty Years BigLift Shipping. It did remind me of my years as PR manager for the Mammoet group of companies, when I was responsible for their PR, advertising, publications and film productions. As usual budgets were tight, but co-operating with the right skilled people, high quality results were achieved. This also counts for this book, however for this particular project the Oscar goes to...: Immie van Kalken, who was responsible for extensive research, the English translation, in short the overall production.

The many hours of work paid off and resulted in an attractive and interesting book. Aart Schuddeboom of 'Vormgeving Onbekend' should be mentioned as well, he signed for the lay-out and managed to adapt the basic ideas and suggestions into a splendid design. Many persons of the past and present were interviewed and in this way numerous interesting stories are captured in this 'forty years' time capsule. An important part of the content was written down from my own experience as a PR-manager from 1976 till 2001. Some excerpts are as follows.

My first foreign assigment was in 1976, when I visited the Sultanate of Oman for the shipment of three boilers for a desalination plant. ''After a three-week voyage from Amsterdam, Happy Rider arrived in Mina Qaboos, the port of Muscat. Mina is Arabic for port and Qaboos was the name of the new Sultan who had just recently come to power. Until then, the Sultanate of Oman had been an introvert community where the gates of the citadel were closed every evening after sundown. The young Sultan ended all this and helped by plenty of oil dollars Oman was pushed into modern times. This was obvious from the activities at Mina Qaboos and Happy Rider was a conspicuous entity next to the gray bulk carriers who mainly delivered cement. On the occasion of the visit to the ship of the Mammoet team in Dubai, who would take care of ongoing transportation of the boilers, the ship's cook - the most important man on board, as everybody well knows - cooked the traditional Dutch winter dish of green pea soup with sausage. Despite the tropical temperatures this gesture was appreciated by one and all.''

Capt Jos Peeters, retired captain of the Happy Buccaneer, wrote in the ship's journal: "In November 2002 we sailed economic speed over the Pacific Ocean and passed Pitcairn Island. We made a 3 hour pitstop there. According to our sailing directions descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty still live on the island. We arrived at 15.30 hrs about half a mile from Bounty Bay. Islanders are equipped with VHF and we were heartily welcomed and invited to visit their island. The island is only 3.6 km wide from east to west and 45 people live there. Immediately on arrival about half of the islanders - 22 persons - came alongside in their longboat carrying fresh fruit and fish and we exchanged some rice and meat with them. Some of the islanders came on board to sell t-shirts, postcards and Pitcairn stamps, while about 10 crewmembers went ashore with the other islanders to visit the island. At 18.30 hrs we sailed again and continued our voyage to Brisbane. Mutineers and Buccaneers waving farewell to each other; a happening to remember.''
Those who never saw the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Marlon Brando in the lead role should by all means do so. The experience of Captain Jos Peeters with the islanders is quite similar to the scene in the film where crew of the Bounty is welcomed to Pitcairn Island.

In the late 1970s there was a lot of work for ocean-going barges transporting building materials to the Middle East. Therefore, in 1978, two semi-submersible barges were ordered from the NDSM yard in Amsterdam. In the same year, the ocean-going tug Happy Hunter (80 ton bollard pull) was built at the ASM shipyard in Arnhem in a very short building period. For a few years, Mammoet Shipping used a tug and barge combination for over-sized cargoes.

"The largest vessel in the top range worldwide until recently was our Happy Buccaneer, our Grand Old Lady, unsurpassed in what she can do." These are the words of Arne Hubregtse, Managing Director of BigLift Shipping, who continues, "If you have only one vessel in this segment, the shipping company is vulnerable; you cannot provide a back up and it is difficult to build the market. Therefore we are very happy with the delivery of our new heavy lift vessel Happy Sky and the addition of Happy Star early 2014. It is very important to be able to service the top of the market with more than one heavy cargo vessel. This give more impact in the market, provides redundancy and enables the company to continue to build on our name and fame as a heavy lift operator in the super heavy lift segment, which has a positive effect on the whole fleet; when the market is aware that we are able to tackle the special and more complicated jobs, the other vessels will automatically be asked for more complicated projects as well.''

Chris Haan, Master of Happy Buccaneer, tells about a tricky lifting operation in Australia: "This lifting and installation operation became quite unnerving as it suddenly all had to happen very quickly because of imminent bad weather. A mooring plan had been designed minimising the environmental foot print on the seabed, and enabling Happy Buccaneer to position herself into the prevailing sea conditions. The four-point mooring system was designed so that both intakes, which were 60 m apart, could be safely landed with the same mooring spread. Because of the excellent cooperation with the client, through our Australian man David Lynn, everything worked out fine." David Lynn commented on the operation at the time that had seen "an excellent display of seamanship from Captain Chris Haan and his crew in positioning the ship some 500 metres off Binningup beach countering a stiff ocean swell." And as Chris Haan remarked, "it is not often that I wake up on Happy Buccaneer to the sound of dogs barking."

Over the 40 years of its existence, BigLift Shipping has gone through many ups and downs, different ships and owners, growing cargo sizes and changing requirements for paperwork and guidelines from clients and official institutes, but then as now, the people forming the company are fascinated by the technical variety of the work and the challenges this throws at them, be they working in the office or on board of the vessels.

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