I had the privilege of enrolling as a Special Apprentice of the Colombo Port Commission for a four year Course, from 1st November, 1966. This Course included theoretical classes that were conducted at the Institute of Practical Training, Katubedda ( IPTK)., (later the ITUM) and training was at the Chief Engineer’s Workshop of the Colombo Port Commission. The foundry practice was done at the Ratmalana Railway Workshops. The selections for this Course were done after a competitive exam held for over 600 Applicants. Though interviews were held for 36 Applicants, only 13 were selected for the Course and 2 more candidates were enrolled as Electrical Special Apprentices.
We commenced our training under an Engineer designated as Engineer Progress & Planning - Mr. Darrel Perera, who was a past Special App. with CEI Part 2 and Foreman Training - Mr. R.A.M. Perera, who was later appointed as the Director of Training at the National Apprenticeship Board. The Apprentices were allocated into three groups to undergo training in various Departments as Group one - Fitting Shop & Machine Shop; Group two - Boiler Shop, Steel Cutting & Welding (electric and gas) and the Blacksmith’s Shop. Group three was with Motor Garage, Diesel Engines, Electrical, Crane Shops, Cargo Handling Equipment and repairs to tugs/running repairs on them. At the end of each of these training sessions, theoretical & practical tests were held prior to commencing the next stage of training. It was needed to submit weekly note books to the Foreman - Progress & Planning for observations. At the conclusion of the Course, a test was conducted by the CPC in order to issue a Certificate confirming the completion of the training schedule.
During this four year period, we had to attend theoretical courses “Apprentice one” and “Apprentice two” conducted at the IPTK for Special Apprentices. The subjects were, Part 1 - Applied & Pure Mathematics, Physics, Electricity & Mechanical Drawings. Part 2 - Heat Engines & Thermodynamics, Electricity & Drawings. For practicals of heat engines we had to use the Heat Lab facilities at the Technical College in Maradana.
My training commenced with Group one with the Marking Table, which guides all the machining of castings done by both ferrous and nonferrous. We began with basic fittings and later went through all the machinery in the Machine Shop such as Lathes, Milling, Shaping, Screw Cutting and Gear Hobbing machinery. A further two weeks were spent in the heat treatment of materials and Copper & Tin Smith shops.
Group two was the Boiler Shop where most of the welding and cutting of material is done, as well as bending sheet material to different shapes. Almost all buoys used by the Port Commission were built and repaired here. Next to the Boiler Shop was the Blacksmith’s Shop that had about three big pneumatically operated hammers and hydraulically operated bending machines. The last phase of this training was chain testing where we can test chains and shackles up to a tension of 100 tonnes. I was fortunate to spend my Boiler Shop training during a project to build a Bucket Dredger named “Bim OOra (බිම් උරා)”. All the steel plates, as well as three Caterpillar engines (power generators) were imported from UK. Mr. S.M.B. Dolapihilla, the Superintending Mechanical Engineer of the CPC was in-charge of this Project and Mr. John Perera, the Boiler Inspector was the person in- charge of the work site. CPC recruited a few specialized Welders for the Project, as all welding were subject to tests and inspection by the Lloyd’s Surveyor in Colombo. The Chain of Buckets were fabricated at the Boiler shop and transferred by rail to the work site, which was the Submarine Dry Dock of the Colombo Port Commission. The day the Bucket chain was fitted a 60 tonne crane was hired from the State Engineering Corporation. CPC used a 20 tonnne crane of the Dockside. This tremendous operation was carried out on a Saturday and the roads inside the Port had to be closed for about 4 hours, until the operation was completed. Both myself and W. Karunaratne, known as “Podi Karu”, now a resident in Australia were the Supervisors of the Project, while we were Apprentices. This training brought us a lot closer to Ship building and Naval Architecture. Every Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the inspection of welds; horizontal, vertical & overhead with the Lloyd’s Surveyor, who was one Mr. Becket, known to Port employees as “Mr. Bucket” !!! He was very particular about undercut welds and we were asked to use a Gouging Torch to remove the old welds without undercutting. As I spent my Boiler Shop & Barge repair training time with the building of this Bucket Dredger, I gathered a lot of knowledge on Naval Architecture, ship building, as well as welding and Gas cutting. During this period, the Government Film Unit captured the construction process and I assisted the Cameraman for overhead filming of the big “Dump Bucket” as drones were not heard of then.
The final phase of training was with the Motor Garage and the Diesel shop. I carried out a complete overhaul of a Rolls Royce Diesel 8 cylinder engine in the Diesel Shop which was fitted to a Hunslet Railway engine used in the Port premises, Crane Shop, Cargo Handling equipment and running repairs on tugs; both steam & motor. The major overhaul of “Sinhabahu” took nearly 3 months and I went on sea trials in it with Mr. Ranjith Seneviratne, who was one of the Re-fit Engineers then. By the time I completed the Apprenticeship in the end of October 1970, Mr. Jackson Weeratunge was appointed the Re-fit Engineer. I had a good rapport with Mr. Weeratunge where he taught me about big water tube boilers such as Foster Wheeler Boilers, which training went a long way in my career. It was time for me to find a job on a ship and on an Application submitted by me, I was interviewed by a Chief Engineer of a steam ship of Blue Funnel Line, who recruited me as a Junior Engineer. I still I cherish the training we had in a Government Department and most of us were very successful as Marine Engineers due to the excellent training received there.
Ranjith Gurugamage M.I.MarE ( India)
This is photo was shot by me in 1972 at the Science Museum in Kensington, London, UK., which is a model of a Bucket Dredger “Sir William Mathew” built in 1938. Plaque below says that it was built for Colony of Ceylon and a similar Bucket Dredger was built (assembled) while I was in the Colombo Port Commission as an Apprentice in 1969, named ,”Bim Oora (බිම් උරා)”. It was not self-propelled and had to use tugs for maneuvering .
The most Senior Marine Engineer as of today, Mr. Sennon Anthony Perera, born on 31st July 1928, is in Australia presently.
To name a few Special Apprentices who were senior to me trained at CPC are Mr. Sennon A. Perera (Deputy Chief Engineer Marine –SLPA)., Mr. A.L. Gunawardane*(Deputy Director of Shipping (Engineering), Mr. Themiya Gunasekera -Technical Manger (CSC), Mr. Jackson Weerathunga*, Technical Director (CSC), Mr.Ranjith Seneviratne, A.C.Dep., Mr. A.K.Perera, Mr. N.G.Y. Perera – Lloyd’s Surveyor, Mr. Ranjith Ruberu, Mr. Bede Madurawela, Mr. H.K.Wijewardane*, Mr. Upali Seneviratne, Mr. H. Ariyarathne, Mr. A.K.Diyabalanage, Mr.S.W. Kariyawasam, Mr.Darrel Perera*, Mr. D.C.Athukorale*, Mr. G.P.L.Perera*, Mr. Rohith Bandarathilleke, Mr. S. Chithsabasen. Mr. H.S. De Silva, Mr. W.A.S. Jayantha, Mr. F.V. De Alwis Jayasinghe, Mr. K.A.D. Manathunga, Mr. Raja Gunasekera, Mr. Ranjith Seneviratne *, Mr. Charlie Ratnayake*, Mr. J.C.Pathberiya*, Mr. T.M.Mathayaze.
My Batch - Mr. W.J.A. Somarathne, Mr. P.B. Angunawela, Ranjith Gurugamage,Mr. K.A.Dayaratne, Mr. W.Karunaratne,Mr. G.J.M. Peter, Mr. W.R.G. De Silva, Mr. Elvin Fernando, Mr. W.D. Anthony, Mr. W.A.H.U. Settinayake *, Mr. Y. Wijeyweera*, Mr. A.M. Cyril, Mr. K. Thibbotumunuwe, Mr. A.M.W. Kulasekera, Mr. K. Rajendran.
CONTRIBUTED BY RANJITH GURUGAMAGE