There is something about port cities that really touches something deep inside me. I come from a port city and as luck would have it I had a job at one time in my life which took me to many ports.
The parent company of the company I worked at was called The 2000 Corporation of Montreux, Switzerland. This company owned and operated many companies among which were: Ocean Cruise Lines, Ocean Air, Travelers, and Pearl Cruises of Scandinavia.
Part of my responsibilities at Pearl Cruises was to research, explore and negotiate shore excursions and ground operations with various destination Management Companies, Hotels and Ground Transportation operators.
My office was located in the Ocean Terminal building in Hong Kong and it was from there that I travelled throughout Asia to do my job.
The Ocean Pearl was a refurbished Baltic Sea Ferry with a 12,000 ton displacement. We sailed a variety of itineraries around China and southeast Asia depending on the season. Our routes included the countries of Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong. Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Indonesia. Occasionally we operated special sailings to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Probably among the many ports we visited, Shanghai was the one which conjured up thoughts of mystery and fascination. Other ports such as Beidaihe, Dalian, Tianjin,Qinghuangdao, Qingdao, Tanjung Aru, Port Klang, Kuching, Kotakinabalu, Bandarseribegawan and Yangon were places that most people were learning about for the first time.
Whenever I was in a port to meet with the harbormaster to discuss berthing, tides, customs, health, migration or other logistical matters prior to the arrival of The Ocean pearl I always experienced the same feeling that I felt as a boy exploring the dockland area around the Floating Harbour in Bristol. It is difficult to express but no matter how many times it happened it was always a sense of wonder. The wonder stemmed I think from the idea that water connects the majority of people n this planet.
Looking around me I sometimes wondered about the vessels could see, either berthed with several cranes loading and unloading cargoes, or lying at anchor at some distance from the port.
the feeling was always one of excitement. While the task of sailing might seem quite simple to some on the surface (no pun intended), navigating the globe is in fact a complicated task requiring sound training and broad knowledge.
I used to imagine what it must have been like aboard a wooden sailing ship in the days before ships had engines. Just casting off from the quay in Bristol and maneuvering a large vessel through the lock gates and into the river Avon on an outgoing tide must have required a skill developed with time and experience of the sea.
No two ports are the same. Kuching (Cat City) in Malaysia for example requires very precise timing in order to enter. There is a sand bar at the entrance to the port. Miss the tide and you sit and wait for the next high tide. A pilot is required for the 8 miles journey up the river Avon into Bristol. Kaohsiung the southern port city of Taiwan has a long straight concrete lined channel which leads in from the sea. Political tensions years ago across the Formosa Straits led to the construction of machine gun posts in towers along the channel.to be continued….