Tuna Workers of Ecuador

Cold Fish

Our cruise ship ports of call in South America heading to Valparaiso are not necessarily world-class destinations.  Sometimes the most excitement and most interesting photos are of the dock workers.

Tuna Boats

We did not sign up for any ship led tours in Manta, Ecuador.  No ship tour appealed to us, so we walked a loop in the town.  We purchased some suntan lotion in a Farmacia and they gave us the old people discount despite not having an Ecuadorian issued certification of being old.

The highlight of this town was watching solidly frozen tuna be unloaded from a tuna fishing vessel.  This work continued for the entire day.  The workers seemed just as interested in the gawking tourists from the ship as we were in them and their tuna.

Tuna boat being unloaded in Manta, Ecuador.

The above photo was taken from our stateroom balcony, showing an overview of the dock scene.  The tuna unloading process is simple.  A forklift unloads empty metal containers from trucks returning from the tuna cannery.  (An Ecuadorian canning factory would certainly have been a worthwhile tour.)  The crane from the ship then brings in two empty metal containers at a time and directs them deep within the ship.  Eventually, two containers full of tuna are winched back out of the cargo hold and onto the cement dock.  A forklift hoists them onto waiting trucks.  A worker then tromps on top of the frozen tuna, pulling a blue tarp over them up to protect them from the scorching sun.

Colorful dock scene.


Frozen, Steaming Tuna (sounds like it could be the name of a rock-n-roll band).

Other waiting trucks were loaded by using nets to dump the fish into large truck beds.  All boat workers were unbelievably patient with the constant stream of curious tourists taking photos and selfies with the tuna.

This tuna ship was being unloaded when we docked at 8:00am.  The workers were still unloading tuna from the same ship when we set sail that evening.  Waiting in the harbor were about 20 similar ships.  Were these all other anchored fishing vessels waiting to get unloaded?

When I get back to the States I’m looking at my canned tuna to see where it came from.  I checked in a Chilean grocery stores and all their tuna was marked from Ecuador.


Ballet of the Dock Workers

Men generally like to watch other men work. They will analyze how these jobs are being done.  When working in Chicago, I saw grandstands erected for one particularly large downtown construction project for the public to use.  Every lunchtime these benches were full of men with sack lunches watching intently.  No women, just men.  The plywood fence surrounding this project had plastic windows for people to peek through and lower level windows for children.  Even at a young age boys would stop and look, not so with little girls and their moms.

So I watched the dock workers go through the process of securing a cruise ship to the dock with large ropes.  Gayle remained inside the cabin.  Docking a ship happens with some regularity it would seem, but that was not readily apparent while watching their work.  The ropes would get secured to one large yellow iron anchor then someone from the ship would yell some orders and the ropes would have to be untied and drug to a different anchor.

These ropes were soon untied and drug to a different yellow anchor.

Maybe you have to be a photographer to enjoy the contrast of the light and the men’s shadows.  While I’m not hanging any of these on my wall, they seemed like artsy shots at the time.


Me and My Shadow


Strolling Down the Avenue…


Nothing Better Than Tires?

With all the technology we have in the world today, it is interesting that there is nothing better than tires for boats and docks all around the world.  Tug boats large and small rely on tires of varying sizes.  Even through the Panama Canal, tires were used for padding.

Hopefully our future stops will provide for something more exciting…

7 thoughts on “Tuna Workers of Ecuador

  1. Your pictures amaze me. You have not only captured the day to day work on the dock, but have done with incredible artistry and great composition.

    • Wait, it gets worse, but then the graffiti in Valparaiso and Machu Picchu make it get better. Not to mention an entire post on a guinea pig which was a real highlight for me.

  2. I do not ordinarily associate Ecuador and tuna. This is very interesting. I particularly like the shadow photos with the orange suits.

  3. hi harold: I really liked the pictures of your tuna trip. Especially intriguing were the pictures of the men on the dock and the frozen tuna. Also your narrative does a good job of connecting the pictures and making a very interesting and informative blog. thanks for the update and i look forward to next week.
    Sharon Dowell CCOE

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