One behind the other neatly arranged. 300 different vehicles were being loaded onto a ship. The company Red Hook Shipping has been doing this process for years. Therefore, one can assume it is second nature to them. Louis, the owner of this company, has been shipping vehicles from here in New York to Haiti for at least five years.
Usually a ship comes up around every six weeks. On this particular day, August 8, 2016, the FLINTERLAND was being loaded with vehicles awaiting their journey to Haiti. Each vehicle is given a number and is weighed and searched by US Customs. This ensures the maximum capacity weight of the ship is not bypassed and that everything is safe.
In the past, the method used to load the vehicles was to drive them into the lower decks of the ship via a ramp, also known as a roll on roll off (roro) method. The method used to load the FLINTERLAND was to drive the vehicles onto the pier where they were then lifted onto the ship (load on load off, or lolo) by a gantry crane. A gantry crane rolls up and down the pier on rails like train tracks.
The two gantry two cranes on the pier have a maximum lift weight of forty tons. Each crane has a main beam that does not move and the boom that can be raised and lowered. Attached to each crane is a spreader, a big box shape with cables and hooks hanging off each of the four corners. The spreader trolleys out along the boom to reach over the ship.
Each vehicle is driven over a set of straps; and stevedores, all in fluorescent vests, secure the straps to the hooks hanging off the spreader. Cars are then lifted onto the boat by the gantry crane. Waiting aboard the ship were lashers who position the cars and secure them. This entire process can take from six to seven hours.
Each customer that comes to Red Hook Shipping has a different reason for exporting a vehicle. Each vehicle has a back story and serves a unique purpose in Haiti.
Growing up with a Haitian mother, vehicle shipping is one of the many cultural things I was exposed to. It was a widely common practice among friends and family.
Vehicles were exported for many uses, from personal use to commercial transportation. Sometimes vehicles were filled with other useful goods as well, such as mattresses, clothing, electronics etc.
It was a way to make business or support family back in Haiti. Red Hook Shipping is not just a business but also a part of a culture. Shipping to Haiti has been going on for years well before the 2010 earthquake. It’s a way to stay connected and develop business.
By Christie Dorestant, PortSide NewYork intern Summer 2016 from Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design (WHSAD)