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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heard of Ship Chandler – Who ?


As you walk into a posh restaurant, you are most likely to gaze at the ceiling and get carried by the rich decorative ceiling mounted light – the chandelier.  Some are most ornate, containing dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate with refraction of light.

In some ways, galley is the most important place.  Beetroots, carrots, lettuces, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkins, tomatoes, garlic, red cabbage, apples, grapes, lemons, bananas, oranges, sweet melons, mangoes, parsnips, turnips…


   -         and more;  sure you know what they are.  Mostly available in many super markets and vegetable shops in cities -  but this article is about them being supplied on board.


Nay – not as cargo – not as consignment.  Those connected to Marine would immediately jump to the conclusion that this the list of edible items in transit either within the country or being imported from where they are grown and think of scope of extending coverage under Marine insurance – thinking of the mode, packing and the hazards involved.

Marine is all about movement of goods from place to place.  Marine insurance is insurance of those goods in transit from one place to other.  In any voyage there are primarily three interests – the ship [that carries the cargo], the cargo [which can include the above mentioned fruits and vegetables also] and the freight [earning capacity of the ship] – and there would be so many parties involved in the movement which include – the ship owner, charterer, shipping line, cargo owner, container owner, C&F agent, Custom House Agent, Govt. agencies and more.

The volume of cargo that is moved places is very huge – and the ship routinely goes on voyage from one place to another calling at many ports on its way [port of call].  Even in a cargo ship there would be many men from the Captain, Navigator, those in Engine room, labourers and other technicians and an important group – the Chef and his team.  As the vessel embarks on long voyage, it is pertinent to have sufficient of stock of food  items on board to cater to the needs of all those on board.

In the normal course, all items necessary for the whole voyage cannot and will not be stacked in the space available – also food items have to be fresh.    A galley is the kitchen aboard a vessel, usually laid out in an efficient typical style with longitudinal units and overhead cabinets. This makes the best use of the usually limited space aboard ships. It also caters for the rolling and heaving nature of ships, making them more resistant to the effects of the movement of the ship.  The  galley stoves are  made out in such a manner that the liquid in the pan would not spill out even when there is pitching or rolling.  A small kitchen on deck was called a caboose or camboose.

Keep in mind that seafarers often are away from the land for long days, have tough assignment to do and are considered able-bodied. Quite often in crossword the term sailor would be the clue for abbreviated : ab [able bodied].  The food of the sailor thus needs to be of the best quality with all the ingredients that are required to support a healthy body and mind.

On board both the quantity and sometimes quality might become scarce.  It is not about money but more about planning and logistics arrangement in buying them in right quantity at right place.  How can someone sailing on ship control what is to be obtained at land, that too at a different Nation ?   Naturally all may not follow the same pattern in ordering and obtaining supplies of food provisions but this is the one  most commonly followed.

Sure, you have heard the word “Chandler”  - pronounced ‘chand-luhr’ – a noun meaning : One who makes or sells Candles or -------------------- a dealer or supplier in other goods i.e., a ship chandler.  Ship  Chandlers  is big business – they deal in sails and ropes and other supplies for sailing ships.  The ‘other’ here encompasses many things including the food items.  For non-mariners like us, the ones that come readily to mind are materials needed for maintenance and upkeep, spare parts, and provisions needed for personal use of sailors.

A ship chandler is a retail dealer  who supplies things needed by the ships.   They need to stock a wide variety of goods, including food, cleaning supplies, marine electronics, and other sundries people may need to smoothly run a ship.  They might get their payment in foreign currency as well.   The orders are generally placed much before the arrival of the ship at the port, so that the Chandler readies the requirements and supplies them upon arrival of the vessel at the port. The timing is very important and Chandlers by virtue of their profession, keep track of the movement of the ships, their expected time of arrival, their turn around time and loading period.  Like any other support function, Chandlers are part of a well-oiled machine that can resupply a ship and offer port-side maintenance very efficiently, to limit the amount of time boats need to spend in port.

Somebody in the trade informs that the items would include besides provisions, items like turpentine, tar, resin, linseed oil, whale oil, tallow,  varnish, twine, rope and cordage, hemp, tools  and tackles, caulking iron,  brooms, mops,  leather goods, cleaning components, paint and paper.

There could be Countries which require special licenses and some ships might require the chandlers to arrange for garbage disposal also.

Few decades back when fax, long distance calls were not cheaper, a Russian vessel called at a small port and the Captain wanted a pet monkey.  The agent telexed in trying to be brief telexed ‘Russian Captain like monkey’………..

In  case you are still wondering what the first para had to do here – chandelier has no connection with chandler other than perhaps being somewhat similar sounding and closer in spelling….

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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