Ships Monthly Magazine


Captain Brian Larcombe

Captain Brian Larcombe

Captain Brian Larcombe, Master of Cruise and Maritime Voyage’s cruise ship Discovery, discusses his career and his current command with Steve Newman.


Why did you choose a career at sea?
I have no idea. My father was in the Air Force, but I think the sea is in my blood. When I was very young, about four years old, my mother took me on the old train that ran around Liverpool Docks and showed me the ships and the cranes. From then on, a career at sea was all I ever wanted, so much so that I went to HMS Conway from 1963 to 1965.

How did your early career develop?
I first went to sea in 1966 as a cadet with P&O on the cargo ship Bendigo, followed by time on a Trident tanker, which I didn’t enjoy at all. Then the new Strath class ships Strathardle and Strathbrora came into service from the UK to the Far East, followed by Orcades and Oriana, and I worked on them. I am also a fully qualified submariner and worked in the RNR after I left P&O, with Vickers Oceanics in Barrow-in-Furness, working on submersibles in the oil industry. My first command was Flexservice 3, followed by her sistership Northern Installer, a saturation dive boat and cable layer.

Where did you go next?
In 1996 I decided to go back to passenger ships and was appointed master of Hebridean Princess, and in 2001 developed and cruised with Hebridean Spirit worldwide (Scotland’s only international cruise ship) until her demise, although I did move with her, as she became the private yacht Sunrise. I also did a couple of years with Captain Cook Cruises in Australia operating their cruise ships in Fiji – a very beautiful part of the world.

Captain Niels Vestergaard

Captain Niels Vestergaard

Captain Niels Vestergaard, master of Sirena Seaways, talks to Nicholas Leach about his career, the newly-renamed ship and the recent unfortunate accident that saw the ship in the headlines.


How long have you worked on Sirena Seaways?
I have been working as master on Dana Sirena, which became Sirena Seaways in March as part of the DFDS rebranding process, since 1 September 2008. Although the ship was not built for the route, having been designed as a ro-ro vessel for the Mediterranean, she is well suited to the North Sea. When DFDS acquired the ship, they added more cabins, and she is now more or less perfect for this route. We carry a mix of freight and passengers and, although we cannot compare with the speed of the airlines, we give good service and offer a relaxing and easy crossing. During the summer our major income comes from passengers, and this summer we have been completely full.

How did the accident occur to the ship at Harwich?
I was not there at the time of the incident. Naturally, we have discussed it internally, and it is very important that we learn from experiences like this in order to help improve processes and procedures. However, this incident is currently being investigated by the UK authorities, who have not yet concluded their report and I am therefore not in a position to comment on the specifics of the incident. What I can say is that the crew onboard all our ships are very practiced in reacting to emergency situations, and the crew did an excellent job and both passengers and crew were safe at all times.

How long did the repairs take?
We were off the route for 14 days in total, at Bremerhaven, including the sailing to and from Esbjerg, as the damage to the ship was not too bad. One of the bow thrusters had been damaged, but the damage to the berth in Harwich was more significant.

Commander Ben Ripley

Commander Ben Ripley

The Type 23 frigate HMS Kent emerged from a multi-million pound upgrade at Rosyth towards the end of 2011 and Patrick Boniface met up with her commanding officer, Commander Ben Ripley, when the frigate visited her namesake county, to discuss his career and his command.


Why did you choose a career in the Royal Navy?
I have no naval background at all, but it seemed to be something different, enjoyable and fun. I went into the Navy straight after leaving college, having done my A levels, and I was then into the Navy at 18. It was about getting out and seeing the world, which is what I did. I’ve been all around the world with the Navy, and seen pretty much everywhere apart from Australia.

What is the attraction of a life at sea for you?
I don’t really know. I just enjoy being there and in command, which is what every warfare officer joins the navy to do, I think – I know I certainly did. All the other jobs, while they’re great in themselves, are leading towards it and gaining experience so it’s all part of the process of learning. There’s a real satisfaction in a job well done at sea where you’re on your own and relying on your ship. And the ship is very capable, but you certainly have to mould what you do and how you use it to every situation. I think that is the challenge.


Roger Corfield, Captain of the Harwich-Hook of Holland superferry Stena Britannica

Captain Roger Corfield

As a follow-up to the special feature marking Stena Line’s 50th anniversary in the last issue, Nicholas Leach talked to Roger Corfield, Captain of the Harwich-Hook of Holland superferry Stena Britannica.


When did you first go to sea?  
On 19 June 1969 on board the product tanker Athelduchess with Athel Line Ltd, a subsidiary of Tate and Lyle. I boarded her at North Shields and we went to Antwerp, and then on to the United States via Japan. I worked with Athel Line until 1975, travelling round the world, picking up cargoes as and when we could at any port.

After Athel Line what was your next move?
I continued working on cargo ships with Blue Star Line; Southland Star was my first Blue Star ship, and we went to Australia with general cargo. I left Blue Star in 1982 having served on the refrigerated cargo ships and the box boats, including ACT 4 and ACT 5, as well as the heavy lift ship Starman America going up the Great Lakes as well as northern France, picking up very specialised cargo. I also worked on Lamport and Holt ships, as well as Booth Line, going up the Amazon with general cargo.

Master Captain Roy Love

Master Captain Roy Love

The Tall Ships organisation annually takes hundreds of youngsters afloat for what is likely to be their first taste of life at sea, and during a trip they can learn valuable life skills. Patrick Boniface caught up with relief Master Captain Roy Love on board the tall ship Stavros S. Niarchos at the Southampton Boat Show.

How did you start your career at sea?
I started with the Royal Naval Reserve in the late 1970s and left in 1994 during one of the big shake-ups. I was working in mine countermeasures and the Navy got rid of their mine countermeasures facility, so I then signed up as a volunteer with the Tall Ships and became a navigator, which was basically an unpaid volunteer role which I undertook for several years. I went to Merchant Navy School and got my Captain’s qualification and then started working as a relief boatswain. I gradually worked my way up through Third, Second and Chief until I became a master about six or seven years ago. Now I am the relief master for the ship.

Why did you choose a career in the Royal Navy?
My family were all in the Royal Navy. We have medals going back to the siege of Sebastopol in the mid-19th century, so there’s a long family history of service in the Navy. I started with the Ton class vessels Walkerton and Nurton, and then was involved in trialling some Suffolk class vessels, which were basically converted trawlers, and I was part of the trials team. Then we worked on the River class and I was attached to HMS Arun for a time.

Scott M. Davis

Scott M. Davis

Scott M. Davis, Master of the cargo vessel Pennsylvania, talks about his career, his ship and working for the ship’s owner Crowley Petroleum Services.


When did you start your career?
I started my seagoing career in 1999 after I graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy.  

What was the first ship you served on?
The first ship I ever worked on was Coastal Eagle Point, a vessel in the US Jones Act trade. The Jones Act requires all commercial vessels that transport domestic cargoes between ports in the United States to be built, owned, operated and manned by US citizens and to be registered under the US flag. Crowley owns and operates more than 200 Jones Act vessels for a wide variety of customers.  

How did your career progress?
My first seagoing job was as an able-bodied seaman. Soon after, I was promoted to third mate and began to make my way up the ranks. All it takes is time, patience and a lot of hard work, but the results are worthwhile.  

What was your first command?
My first command was on the tanker Blue Ridge, a now-retired, US-flagged, Crowley-operated cargo vessel that was employed to transport petroleum products in US coastwise trades.

What other ships have you served on?
I have served on the following vessels: Coastal Eagle Point, Courier, Chemical Explorer, Blue Ridge, Evergreen State (Crowley managed), Coast Range, ATB 750-1/Legacy, ATB 750-2/Legend, and Pennsylvania.

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