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Experiences of a sailor – Memories of Columbia

by | Sep 5, 2017 | Shippy Experiences

Some time back, I bought a new TV. Setting it up gave me a distinct feeling that these things are called ‘Smart’ primarily because they make me look rather stupid – what with the various controls, internet connection, channels, etc, etc.

Eventually, with the help of my son, I managed to set it up and ‘Netflix’ came up. I decided to sign up mainly because the first month was free. Started watching a series named ‘Narcos’. It was exciting and I was hooked. Stayed up half the night most of the days and on one day, even bunked office. Immediately ordered my son to make sure the subscription was terminated after the first month was up!!

Now for the series Narcos itself. It is about the famed Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. The cruelty of the the man is unbelieveable. This brought up some long forgotton memories.

Almost 26 years ago, I was sailing on a ship that was loading boxes of bananas in a port called Turbo in Colombia. The ship would remain at anchor and many boats came up to the ship and boxes would be loaded by cranes.

We were told that Turbo was the main export port of cocaine by the Cali cartel and to be very careful. But as usual, nobody gave it much thought.

I had my 2 year old son and wife on board and spoke to the Captain requesting him to arrange for a boat to take us ashore and soon a small speed boat took us to the town. It was like any small town in those parts of the world. Friendly people. We roamed around and had something to eat before we started back for the ship.

Talking to the locals on board the ship, we were told that we could buy a ton of cocaine off the shelf in that town!

After a couple of days, we were finished loading and started heading for the discharge port – Rotterdam. Incidentally, before the ship sailed out from Turbo, police divers examine the underwater hull of the ship to make sure that there is no container full of contraband welded to the ship. We were rather worried that if those cops were corrupt, they would themselves weld a container during the inspection!!

Anyway, we reached Rotterdam safely and the ship’s manager came on board – he was a Dutchman and whilst talking about the stay in Turbo and the general conditions, the Capt. told him that I and my family had gone ashore in Turbo. That rather aged gentleman looked extremely disturbed, shook his head and the conversation went like this:


“What ‘No’?”

“No, he and his family cannot go ashore in Turbo.”

“But Sir, I did go out with my family.”

“Not possible. Can you prove it?”

“Yes, here is the receipt of the boat charges which was paid to the agent.”

He took a copy of the receipt and then told us that the agent in Turbo hadstrict orders from them that no ship staff were allowed to go ashore in Turbo, especially if someone had a family. It was very common for the drug gangs there to kidnap the child and ask the parent to carry a few kilos of cocaine to Europe on the ship as ransom!


Niranjan Bangera

36 Properties Pvt Ltd

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Written By: niranjan

Financially Stupid Niranjan


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