Sunday, March 02, 2008

On-a Our-a Way-a to-a da Barge-a

Start by saying that with your best Italiano accent.


We had the privilege of touring a pipe-laying barge afloat on the Caspian shoreline. Our tour guide was the one and only Francesco from Italy. He speaks with an accent you thought only existed in the movies. I'd say the best example would be Luigi, the Italian chef on the Simpsons.

Turns out that pipe-laying in the Caspian Sea is fascinating stuff. They basically piece together small segments of pipe until one continuous length reaches 12 metres. Then the pipe is dropped into the water and the barge moves on. Rinse and repeat until the pipe is completed.

The best part of the tour was having to get dressed up in a bright orange reflective jacket, steel-toed boots, safety glasses, and an orange helmet. So professional we were.

At one point we saw the entire employee list for the barge. The cooks were all Kazakh, the engineers were Italian, there were plenty of Filipinos, Russians, Azeris, and I think there was one Indonesian. Interestingly, each nationality gets paid based on the average income of his country. Brits get paid more than Filipinos and so on and so forth. Brits also work one month on, one month off, whereas the Italians are two months on, one month off. The Filipinos do six month stints before getting vacation. One would think this would cause dissension in the ranks, but I am told it all works very well. 


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