Before heading into the New Year, Seafarers closed out 2019 by welcoming a new containership into the union-contracted fleet.
Seafarers in early November began sailing aboard the Rio Grande Express, an 853-foot vessel that’s operated by Marine Personnel and Provisioning for Hapag-Lloyd. Built in 2006 in Korea, the 4,248 TEU ship is sailing between northern Europe and U.S. ports on the East and Gulf Coasts.
“This is an outright addition to the SIU fleet,” noted SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker. “As always, we welcome the new jobs and are confident that our crews will do an outstanding job.”
The initial SIU crew aboard the Rio Grande Express included Recertified Bosun Glenn Christianson, ABs Anwar Martinez, Saleh Salah, Oscar Lacayo, Timothy Hess, Hernando Bansuelo and Ali Al Kassemi, QMEDs Sutthipong Ticer, Mashanda Carr and Mohammad Khan, GSTU Stalyn Mena, Steward/Baker Timothy Heffernan and Chief Cook Ali Bazzi.
Heffernan said the ship presented some challenges when Seafarers first climbed the gangway, but the crew rose to the occasion.
“The galley was filthy and we didn’t have a lot of equipment,” he recalled. “I won’t lie and paint a rosy picture (about the initial experience), but morale is good and the food is good, if I may say so.”
Speaking from Hamburg, he continued, “Within a few days, there was a 100 percent improvement in appearance. It really was amazing the way everybody stepped up. We’ve made great progress but there’s more to do. We’re just waiting on supplies and then heading back to Houston. It’s generally a middle-aged to younger unlicensed crew and we’re all managing pretty well. So far, so good on shore time, too.”
SIU Houston Patrolman Kelly Krick serviced the vessel as it reflagged. “It reminds me of the Maersk K-Class vessels,” he said. “It’s a newer vessel with good living quarters. Everybody seemed pretty excited about the new opportunity.”