Filipino Vessel, Crew Playing Key Role in Longview Economy

Erik Olson, March 3, 2013, Longview Daily News

For second officer Alan Genesis Parmittan and the rest of the Filipino crew of the freighter Anne Mette Bulker, the trip to the Port of Longview is like coming home.

Thousands of miles from their homes in the Philippines, the 19 crew members have developed strong ties in a short time in the community where they made their vessel’s maiden voyage last year.

“Longview is special because the stevedores are friendly. This is the best port I’ve ever been in. And I’ve been to Long Beach (California), but it’s better here. I like it more,” said Parmittan, 25, whose most recent arrival here was Feb. 19.

On Tuesday, the crew, led by Capt. Clemente Melquiades Jr., hosted a luncheon for port officials and other maritime industry personnel aboard the ship. The meal was a mix of American and authentic Filipino cuisine: fried shrimp, lumpia (spring rolls) and even a full pig’s head that had been boiled, grilled and fried and had an apple slice in its mouth.

But as much as this crew loves coming to Longview, the ship’s value to the port and local economy is just as important. The Anne Mette made three trips to the Port of Longview last year, loading 18 million board feet of logs from Southwest Washington timber producers. That accounts for about 12 percent of all of Port of Longview’s log exports for the year.

“We have a lot of people who have adopted this vessel as their own,” Port of Longview CEO Geir Kalhagen said.

The crew’s influence extends beyond the port. Last week, the crew spent hundreds of dollars in town on groceries for the luncheon and their 20-day journey to China, bought a basketball hoop to pass the idle time on the docks and purchased two chainsaws for work.

Also, many crew members bought laptop computers, tablets, cellphones and other electronics — which cost twice as much in their homeland, said the port’s public affairs director, Ashley Helenberg.

“We often think of the port just delivering jobs on the docks, but our influence extends into the community,” she said.

In turn, the community has embraced this band of Filipinos, who typically take dozens of photos to document their journey. Father Cal Christiansen of St. Rose Catholic Church in Longview blessed the ship last year and held mass on board. Helenberg’s toddler son has drawn pictures that crew members proudly take back home. And many crew members stay in contact with local residents through social media.

“This is my personal favorite vessel,” Helenberg said.

Commissioned last year, the Anne Mette is 607 feet long and weighs nearly 24,000 tons. She’s owned by Lauritzen Bulkers based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and she’s registered in Great Britain.

A collection of islands located in the South China Sea, the Philippines is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a huge dependence on the maritime economy. Parmittan, like most of the young crew, graduated from the Philippines Merchant Marine Academy, where he learned the basics of navigation, mapping and other essential skills for traveling at sea.

Back home at the Kalinga province in the northern region of the island, Parmittan has a wife and a 5-month-old son whom he supports. It’s difficult being away from his baby, but Parmittan said he makes much more money at sea than he ever could at home.

“It’s a sacrifice to go far, but you get a good deal,” Parmittan said, adding that he’ll see his family again in five months.

The Anne Mette left Longview Thursday night and will spend the next three weeks at sea. Once it docks in China, the crew will spend a couple weeks unloading logs before heading back to Longview, its adopted home.

“It’s okay in China. But it’s very different,” Parmittan said.

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