CULT by Maurice Meth

(submitted by Maurice’s wife, Mrs Elizabeth Meth)
Continued from previous issue

Chapter Four

The trading economy from the eighties has moved on to a far more robust model with the change of supply of the original consumables to increased manufactures of local suppliers. Our TINFIS and original rice supply has moved on from overpriced imports to rice from Asian volumes complementing Australian supply and locally canned TINFIS.
This was an utter shambles perpetuated by 100% breakbulk imports pre the fully containerised shipping trades in the late eighties. The rule of the “quick and the dead” was introduced quickly where smaller traders were able to recover high value fish; for example, “777”, which disappeared from the wharves well before the real owners showed up to take delivery of the low value goods that were left behind.

The cartel of WRC, BP’s and Steamships simply devised a trading order system where smaller groups, like our Chinese friends, were encouraged to buy as separate groups and the police, of course, had their own. I had the “misfortune” or otherwise to offset a large number of claims for mis-deliveries where the secondary buying cartels were forced to negotiate with the main players. This was always fascinating where “marine claims” were “torn up” thus shrinking total claims to a very manageable few.

The Insurance brokers always encouraged our swaps and only the lawyers saw a shrinking pool of legal action. We also happily encouraged the Sea Carriers to make contributions to revenue further encouraging the shrinking pool of claims. What evolved was for the common good to encourage all concerned to expedite finalising all commercial liner trading extending to the whole market including loose bags of fertilisers and similar to the fast-growing trades for highlands and coastal plantation business.

My role for many years was allowing our own people a free-hand profiteering through our own Terminals and quietly in the background sorting out the mis-deliveries later and rather quietly allowing the wheels of commerce to roll.

All of this was impossible without the support of our “enlightened” long term senior Management who were generally moved to facilitate changes to overall ownership. I recall very clearly being tasked by one extremely irritated CW NG Mainland Manager to visit a large Chinese Trader and recover all BP SHOPPING BAGS “nicked” without authority.

The end result was recovery of all bags and a number of “offsets” and cancelled shipping claims with rapidly agreed new shipping values. I learnt very quickly no one was embarrassed or “in denial”, and the close liaison between shipping and trading then was a common feature of our supposed highly sophisticated distribution systems of logistics. Management evolved from through the original network of Supplier Orders to International Shipping.

The facilitator Burns Philp, for example, then offered the full “multi-modal service” including import clearances and coastal deliveries direct to the customers’ door regardless of final remote destination. Variations to the simplest transactions were available with minimal “point to point” shipping or “intermodal delivery”. I remained amazed at the complexity of these structures and the very transparency available to all parties in the entire trading chains. I also remain convinced we lost the plot later.

The Port Management Group 1974 t0 1984.

The overview of Port Management through this decade was critical to the stability of vessels and cargoes transiting the Ports of PNG. The enlightened executive management represented by the “big three” (WRC, Burns Philp and Steamships) successfully cobbled together the operating “bye laws” standardising all Ports under the PNGHB Network rotating Chairmen in the interests of all concerned and correcting “anomalies” as they appeared.

Critical food supply was initially enshrined through the provisions of a “Berth Reservation” system originally designed to facilitate MV Bulolo ensuring priority for food deliveries through the main PNGHB Ports. This system was quickly expanded to a “user throughput” guarantee covering a number of new entrants to the “reserved berth” express delivery system ex Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Advanced shipping tonnage deployed by Swire, NEL and Karlander.

The level playing field played a critical role prioritising supply enforced by the Executive Management recognising “boundaries” and community priorities. Support from Executive Management ensured Port Management Teams across PNG remained commercial, legalising the transiting of all cargoes and vessels.

Senior Port Managers Capt. DG Rabaul and Capt. MT Lae balanced authority across Senior Pilots enforcing the PNG legislation to meet international conventions. Legend has it as Samarai only had two vehicles to service both the ADC and the Pilot. The BSA WARTIME motorcycle allocated to the Port Pilot collided with the ADC’s vehicle at midnight, both attending separate functions.

Port Pilots in outports settled disputes with Berth allocations and vessel movements simply allocating resources to expedite best port practises.

Chapter Five

Traders and Shippers remained prominent in their capacity to ensure export outcomes offset the massive import costs through their own endeavours. It was common in the nineteen seventies and eighties for port delays and natural disasters like Daulo and Kassam Pass road landsides to trap coffee destined for July shipments. This was normally exacerbated by rain and berth congestion at Lae.

The unique solution was the transfer of 5 tonnes of coffee (e.g. 85 bags) covering up to 6000 tonnes of green coffee beans. The trick was that each consignment was of 1700 bag shipments (100 tonnes) transferred to vessel stowage at the Sugarloaf Anchorage off Lae. Each consignment recorded in the Ships Log was accepted by London Brokers as partially loaded.

These transfers had to be completed before midnight on the last calendar day usually using a “open” lifeboat with five “tarped pallets” loaded directly at Sugarloaf into a hatch immediately sealed and Tally Dockets produced to supports entries to the Ships Log verified by the Master and Mate.

Take a bow BJT, the Metric Mate and shippers Angco etc. In today’s dollars that coffee value at USD 20 per kilo roasted was valued at $USD 120 million. Sharing a duty paid SP from an “esky” onboard seemed ample reward for job done. The rewards of controlling business at superior rates was the professionalism we contributed at “Traders and Shippers”.

to be continued

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