We came into Port Tawas, a few hours north of Saginaw, at around 5AM. This dock, like every other dock, is different from the ones I have seen before. All along the waterfront are homes that look like vacation homes, though they could well be permenent residences, and the dock itself is a tiny conveyor coming out from behind the trees onto a spiffy looking concrete island holding the loader mechanism. Walking back after mooring the ship, I noted that the loader looked pretty cool.
"This is my favorite type of loader" replied Dave.
"Why? Because it is so clean?" I asked, meaning that the load would go mostly into the hatch and not need much cleanup from us afterwards.
"Well, that too," he said, "but I mean because it moves itself." And we don't have to move the ship under the loader, like Dave spent ten hours doing last night at Bay City near Saginaw and has slept only three hours between now and then.
"If all of them were clean and loaded themselves, what would they need us for?" I asked the slightly more experienced crewmate.
"Well, shit, they wouldn't. With the way the industry is going, they would just fire us if the ports ever modernized."
"But then who would paint and scrape off grease?"
"They would get some AB to do it during his off hours."
Then we reached the hatch crane, so the conversation ended and we got back to work.