Crew change for the Federal Agno

Trading crews in Duluth
While Duluth is an international port, we don’t have some of the usual things associated with an international port. After all, we are in Minnesota, just north of Iowa. For one, we don’t have any salt water. And most international ports don’t close down for the winter, one of the benefits of living in a salt water port.
Ocean-going vessels come into port, load or discharge cargo, and then depart. Usually, their crews come in with them and depart with them. Sometimes, we have crew-changes in Duluth. Relief sailors fly to Duluth to board their ship when she arrives, allowing other sailors to fly home for their vacation.
Recently, Captain Florencio Jampil and five crew members from the Federal Agno arrived in Duluth by plane from the Philippines. They were here to relieve current shipmates who would be getting off and returning home to the Philippines.
It turns out that everybody loves to come to Canal Park and the Marine Museum to watch the ships come in, even crew members who will be spending the next 10 to 12 months on one of them.
  That’s where I ran into the Federal Agno relief crew while they were waiting for their ship to come in. I remembered that a picture of the Federal Agno coming under the Lift Bridge was one of my most popular pictures. I asked if they wanted to see it. They said yes, so I took them over to the hallway in my building where some of my pictures are hanging and showed them the picture.
While looking at the picture, I told the Captain I was sorry I couldn’t remember the date the picture was taken. He had been studying the picture and told me it was taken in May, 2002.
He had been looking at the paint job on the ship and noted that it had to be taken after February, 2002. That’s when the ship was in the port of Shenzhen in China for an inspection and paint job. He knew what it looked like before the paint job and after.
He was on the ship then. After the service stop in Shenzhen, they headed south to Australia.
He was the first mate, and one of his tasks was to plot the ship’s future course. He was familiar with the course the ship would be taking even though he was getting off the ship in Australia. He told me some of the ship’s itinerary after they departed Australia and set sail for Duluth.
  They had several stops before Duluth. They loaded zinc blocks in Australia and discharged that cargo off in Detroit and several other Great Lakes destinations. Then they set off for Duluth and my waiting camera.
They came under the Lift Bridge at 4:25 in the afternoon of May 26th. As they went under, they picked up the assistance of the tug Kentucky, both of which then nicely sailed into my waiting viewfinder. The rest is history.
My camera got a great picture that not only hangs in a hallway in my building but also graces the wall in a local hotel.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky was working on a much greater purpose than my picture – taking the Federal Agno to the Harvest States elevator in Superior to load durum wheat for a foreign port.
I told the captain I would print some copies of the picture for the crew. While I was doing that, captain and crew went back to the Marine Museum to wait for their ship.
An hour later, I returned to the Museum with my pictures. I found the captain at the center of a large group of visitors, answering all their questions. If he had stayed around, I might have been out of a job.
Soon, the Federal Agno came into view and most of us went outside to greet the ship. I went out to take a picture of the people greeting the ship. After all, I already had a good picture of the ship.
It was fun to watch those on the ship waving to the crowd and slowing realizing their shipmates were a part of it. Soon, most of the crew on deck had found the crew on the ship canal. There was a lot of jumping and yelling and waving. It was clear, as the Captain later told me, that the people who work on this ship are a close knit group who has stayed with the ship through the years. Later I realized that crew members on board were really excited about getting off the ship and going home. They were happy to see their replacements in Duluth.
  That was the end of the good times visiting with the Federal Agno. The next morning, I went over to see how things were going, knowing, that for me, the going would not be fun. That is because they were loading bentonite, a type of clay that is either creating dust clouds when it is dry or coating everything around and on the ship with what can only be described as grease when things are damp. With bentonite loading, ships almost always line their hallways with paper and enforce a no-shoes-anywhere-else policy.
When I arrived, it was dry but threatening. Halfway up the gangway, a thunderstorm started up. Lightning was crackling around me and the grease was beginning to gather at my feet. I try never to get near bentonite unless it is dry and the wind is not blowing. This was the worst case, dry when I arrived, but wet when I climbed down and tried to find my car.
Ignoring the problems I would have when I left, I still continued up the gangway, found the captain, took off my shoes and started to ask some more questions for the Duluth Shipping News.
Before long, the Coast Guard arrived and began a thorough inspection of the ship. Along the way, they ordered a fire drill, putting us all out on the deck and in the rain. I was actually on a ship with two captains and I was visiting with the relief captain. The other or current captain, at least for the next day, had to follow the Coast Guard around and answer their questions.
It was kind of interesting to watch the fire drill. The sun even came out for part of it. Most of the activity that I saw involved launching the lifeboat.
Forty minutes later, the drill ended. We returned to the temporary captain’s quarters. He had arranged for some food to be brought up. As it was set down before me, the Coast Guard walked in. I decided it was time for me to get off the ship, and try to make it to my car. I did think for a moment of grabbing my plate of Pilipino food but decided against it. I never checked back to see if the Coast Guard took a nibble out of my lunch.
I made it out and immediately went to a car wash to get rid of the bentonite. I would have to wait until later to wash my clothes.
I wanted to catch them when they left also, assuming they would all be out on deck waving good-bye. I am dedicated, but not usually dedicated enough to wave goodbye at 11:04 pm, the time on May17th that the Federal Agno, with her new Captain and crew members, went under the Lift Bridge, their holds filled with lovely bentonite
Kenneth Newhams :