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Drama in the Shipping Ports
(Rod) R A M Ramsay (55-60) reminisces about his days with Ben Line shipping company.

One year in the late 80s the Ben Line Chairman came through Jakarta on one of his Far East visits. As usual we threw a large cocktail party for him, and amongst the other invitees I included the entire Board of our Agents, Djakarta Lloyd (DL) .

During the evening, Norman Razak, the DL Chairman, cornered our Chairman and asked him whether our ship the Benarty might be available for charter. She was a specialized vessel, capable of lifting 250 tons. The upshot of this was that the Benarty was fixed on long term charter to DL.

Fast forward several years: Benarty was tied-up alongside in Antwerp, when a cyclone broke out. Her hawsers were stretched like giant rubber bands and she was crashing repeatedly against the wharf, causing her extensive damage. The relevant Charter Party stated that any such damage would be accountable to the Charterer. So Ben Line put in a claim on DL, for several million pounds. The result - nothing. The claim was pursued by our lawyers in Indonesia, Belgium, and the UK for many years, but DL did not budge.

Some time later, DL had one of their ships, the Mataram in Tilbury, on the Thames. Ben Line's London agents boarded the vessel and affixed a holding order on the vessel, to the mast. The ship could not sail. DL Jakarta were told that she would be held there with all her crew, until our enormous claim was settled.

Ben Line, Head Office, Edinburgh kept me closely informed and asked me to " Hold the fort!" Next, I was urgently summoned by the President Director of Sea Communications, Fanny (sic) Habibie. So I went swiftly to Fanny's enormous office building, anticipating that I might be on the next plane out.

"What did I mean by arresting a DL vessel? They are the government-owned shipping line." I explained that the arrest had been carried out by the board of my head office in Edinburgh - giving all the reasons. The confrontation went on for some considerable time, but it ended with Fanny shaking my hand and saying he would look into the matter promptly.

After lengthy negotiations Ben Line managed to extract from him an agreement whereby a very substantial payment would be made immediately - and the Mataram was released.

Fanny and Rod are good friends to this day.


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