What life is re­ally like aboard a live ex­port ship on the high seas

The Queensland Times - - Front Page - EMMA CLARKE emma.clarke@qt.com.au

PI­RATES, dis­tant ex­otic lands, a job in a con­tro­ver­sial in­dus­try and civil war – Ip­swich man Jack Carew’s story has it all.

Be­fore he even fin­ished school Jack knew he wanted an ad­ven­ture.

His brother worked on ships and at age 18, Jack got the call up for his first voy­age.

That was the start of an epic three year jour­ney that would ul­ti­mately stay with him for the rest of this life

Jack vis­ited Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries in the mid­dle of civil war, had a dra­matic brush with So­ma­lian pi­rates and spent weeks on end aboard mas­sive live ex­port ships bound for the Mid­dle East, Rus­sia and China.

“On one of the trips back from the mid­dle east, the ship had an RPG fired at it and an or­ange life raft got blown to smithereens. It also had bul­let holes up one side of the ship where a pi­rate un­loaded a mag from an AK-47,” Jack said.

It was a jour­ney that shaped Jack’s per­spec­tive on his own life and a source of many dra­matic sto­ries of close calls, far-off lands and life on board live ex­port ships.

FRESH out of school, young and in need of an ad­ven­ture, Jack Carew set off on a voy­age that would ul­ti­mately shape the rest of this life.

It was 2011 and Jack was 18 when he fol­lowed his older brother on board the decks of some of the world’s largest live ex­port ships bound for the Mid­dle East, Rus­sia and China. He spent the next three years in coun­tries in the mid­dle of a civil wars, on board ships for up to 30 days straight and preparing to de­fend him­self from what could have po­ten­tially been a lu­cra­tive pi­rate at­tack.

“My older brother Ben had been work­ing on the ships for a year or so when I was in Year 12. He would come back from tak­ing a load of cat­tle to The Mid­dle East, cashed up, un­shaven and well-trav­elled. I knew I was su­per keen for this ad­ven­ture,” Jack said.

“I fi­nally got the call to say that I had a ship called the Bar­dar lll wait­ing for me in Fremantle, West­ern Aus­tralia in two weeks time.” For three years, Jack and his crew mates set sail on mul­ti­ple voy­ages be­tween the Mid­dle East, Rus­sia and China, de­liv­er­ing up to 20,000 head of cat­tle to in­ter­na­tional slaugh­ter­houses.

Ev­ery trip was an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture with prom­ise of stop-overs in for­eign coun­tries but also a re­minder of the potential dan­gers of the live ex­port in­dus­try.

“From the equa­tor, the closer you got to the shores of So­ma­lia, Kenya, Yemen and Saudi Ara­bia, the more risk we would be in of be­ing at­tacked by pi­rates. To get to the red sea, you have to go in be­tween the coasts of So­ma­lia and Yemen. The Gulf of Aden is a par­tic­u­lar hotspot for pi­rate at­tacks,” Jack said.

“One of the ships I trav­elled on fre­quently called the MV Maysora. On one of its trips back from the mid­dle east, it had an RPG fired at it and an or­ange life raft got blown to smithereens. It also had bul­let holes up one side of the ship where a pi­rate un­loaded a mag from an AK-47.”

After a cou­ple of years of work­ing the ships, Jack was on the world’s largest live ex­port ship, the Nada, bound for Rus­sia.

“This huge ship could hold up to 22,000 head of cat­tle. Luck­ily, the com­pany I was work­ing for at the time only loaded 18,000 head onto the ship, so there was more than enough room which made our job rel­a­tively easy for the 30some­thing day trip to Mother Rus­sia,” he said.

“Our voy­age would see us travel across the In­dian Ocean, up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, straight through the Mediter­ranean Sea, up the Bospho­rus Strait, into the Black Sea and ar­rive at our des­ti­na­tion in Novorossiysk, Rus­sia.

“Luck­ily for this trip though, we stopped in at the Mal­dives and picked up three Sri Lankan armed guards. Who, for the next 10 days would be on full time, 24/7 pi­rate watch. With the help of a few Pak­istani crew, eyes and ears would con­stantly be looking out to the ocean. Nat­u­rally, I had a mil­lion ques­tions for th­ese se­cu­rity guards. They all had old school SLR ri­fles, chest rigs/ plate car­ri­ers, tac hel­mets.”

It was that voy­age that would make for some of the most memorable mo­ments of Jack’s live ex­port ca­reer. In Jack’s words

One day dur­ing a lunch break, I was up on the bridge keep­ing watch with the other crew, when one of the deck­hands pointed out to the ocean, he spot­ted a sk­iff that was so far away it looked like a spot in amongst the white caps.The se­cu­rity guard got called over, he grabbed a set of binoc­u­lars and had a look ca­su­ally, it was com­mon to see fish­er­man out on their boats. Not long later the two off-duty

se­cu­rity guards were on the bridge with binoc­u­lars in hand.

By this stage, I was get­ting a lit­tle ex­cited, we were fac­ing a potential pi­rate at­tack and I was go­ing to be there to wit­ness it all. For a bet­ter word, I was su­per pumped, just the thought of a pi­rate at­tack ex­cited the s*** out of me.

Now I was on edge, I could clearly see the four boats on the sonar, slowly but surely bleep­ing their way closer to­wards the di­rec­tion we were trav­el­ling.The Cap­tain or­dered the ship to be ad­justed five de­grees to the port side. On the radar I watched our line of di­rec­tion change slightly to the left, then as if or­ches­trated, the four small blimps on the radar cor­rected their course and I watch their sk­iffs dou­ble in speed. My heart started thump­ing, the bridge ex­ploded into ac­tion, it went from all the ship of­fi­cers cu­ri­ously watch­ing, to full blown all hands on deck. Of­fi­cers jumped on phones and two ways, lights and sirens erupted from the walls. All that was needed, was a small change of speed and di­rec­tion from th­ese sk­iffs, to go from a ‘could be fish­er­man’, to holy f***, ‘we are be­ing at­tacked by mother f ****** pi­rates’.

The se­cu­rity guards cracked open the box and started throw­ing each other guns, mags, tac vests, and gear, get­ting suited up, the cap­tain was bel­low­ing or­ders to the of­fi­cers as they jumped on ra­dios and PA sys­tems. Those sk­iffs were now fully vis­i­ble, I could see the troop of men in each sk­iff as they mo­tored to­wards us. My heart was in my throat, I was fully ready, men­tally and phys­i­cally, to grab one of those ri­fles and go to town on th­ese pi­rates to pro­tect my­self and the ship. When they got close, the se­cu­rity guards were on the side of the bridge hold­ing their ri­fles up in the air to show the pi­rates they were fight­ing an armed and ready ship. I was be­ing told to go down to my room by one of the of­fi­cers, I wasn’t go­ing any­where…

Once the sk­iffs got close they re­alised what ex­actly they were com­ing up against, an armed and ready ship full of p ***** of Pak­ista­nis, and I re­alised they were lit­er­ally sit­ting ducks on the wa­ter. Their lit­tle sk­iffs were jump­ing around on the top of the wa­ter, the MV Nada was like a rock in the wa­ter slowly rolling from right to left. Nearly a per­fectly sta­ble plat­form to take aim from one of those SLR ri­fles. Not only that, but I wouldn’t want to be boarding a ship with a s*** load of p ***** off Pak­ista­nis with fire hoses in hand.

After not long at all the sk­iffs turned around and mo­tored off in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. Not a sin­gle shot was fired. Slightly dis­ap­pointed but se­verely satisfied, it was back down to the decks to fin­ish up for the rest of the day with my moo cows.

Photo: Jack Carew

Live ex­port ships fre­quented seas sur­round­ing the Mid­dle East, China and Rus­sia.

Photo: Jack Carew

Ships of­ten dock in war-torn and po­lit­i­cally unstable coun­tries.

Photo: Jack Carew

Pi­rates travel in small boats know as Sk­iffs.

Photo: Con­trib­uted

LIVE EX­PORT: Ip­swich busi­ness­man Jack Carew, pic­tured when he was 18, spent three years work­ing on live ex­port ships be­tween the Mid­dle East, Rus­sia and China.

Photo: Jack Carew

Jack Carew spent three years work­ing as a stock hand on live ex­port ships.

Photo: Jack Carew

Crews have to make the most of the re­sources they have on board.

Some cap­tains opted to take se­cu­rity into their own hands.

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