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Story by John Leask

May 1987

Friday 27th March and we were all set to go for the second container crane commissioning.

The container crane had passed her eight-hour test with flying colours the day before.

The performers and guests put on their Sunday clothes for the party. Commercial division members got it all together – including the drinks. The Premier was due to arrive at 11.00am to commission the crane.

Guess what? One uninvited guest arrived early. The famous Dr. Murphy.

By 10.00am we knew the crane was not working. Soon after, Jim Biggs and the Brown Boveri’s electrical engineers arrived for the party, only to find themselves on duty instantly. From that time onwards, it was interesting to observe the manner in which various people adapt to crisis.

At 11.17am most had expended their available adrenalin and the ceremony commenced – without No. 2 Crane. No. 1 Crane came up from the ship it was working to hoist the specially prepared banner from a container. And then, just as the ceremony concluded No.2 Crane fired into action like a petulant star who arrives late to the party and is offended because it started without her.

If any senior staff felt under pressure that day, spare a thought for the electrical boys – they were the ones under real pressure.

One might have thought that was enough – but no, Dr. Murphy had his entire entourage at work that day. For example (just to mention a few):

  • The Port Lincoln bulk loading plant broke down completely as it was loading the last 1000 tonnes of the largest single grain load shipped from a South Australian port (60,500 tonnes) onto the Samjohn Captain.
  • The Osborne weighbridge broke down.
  • One of the lifts in head office broke down.
  • A computer terminal malfunctioned.

It’s on days like this some of us wonder why we ever got into engineering!

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