Captain Bengt Viknander, from Sweden, has been captain on Stena Danica for the past two years. The ship, however, has been on the Frederikshavn-Gothenburg route for much longer. Built in 1983, Stena Danica has been working on the same route for 30 years, an event celebrated in March 2013, when all passengers were given some cake.
When did you start at sea?
I started in 1983 on a fishing boat, trawling for herring in the waters between Sweden and Denmark, and then worked in the North Sea for a year. I went to college to study seamanship after that, and in 1986 went to sea as an AB on board a Swedish Maritime Administration ship, the 50m by 12m Scandica, working on the maintenance of lighthouses and buoys; she had a large crane to lift the buoys. I worked on her for 18 months.
What other ships have you worked on?
I worked for Vingatank on tankers from 1988 until 1991 and then I worked for a year and a half ashore at Gothenburg VTS. In 1993 I went on Gorthon Lines’ dry cargo vessel Stig Gorthon, and our main cargo was paper. We usually operated on a route from Finland to Antwerp and Bilbao. In 1994 I started training to be a master mariner and went to sea during that time as part of the training. I graduated in December 1997 and had my first job as second officer on another Gorthon dry cargo vessel, Alida Gorthon.
When did you start working on ferries?
I started working for Stena in 2003 on one of the ro-ro vessels, Stena Freighter, running between Gothenburg and Travemünde. The first Stena Freighter was an old ship, and she was replaced in 2004 by a new Stena Freighter, but the route closed in 2010. I was Chief Officer and then, for the last year, was Captain. After that I moved to Stena Nautica, running between Denmark and Sweden, and started on Stena Danica in May 2012.
John Periam and Geoffrey Lee had the opportunity to spend time on the Royal Navy Fisheries Patrol Vessel HMS Mersey under the Command of Lt Cdr Sarah Oakley RN, who talked about her career and current command.
How long have you been CO of HMS Mersey?
This is my first command of a ship, and I have been in the job since May 2012. Before that I worked on a variety of warships, operating from the Atlantic to the Middle East and I have also worked training junior officers at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon. My first job was as a Gunnery Officer in HMS Alderney, so I already knew the ins and outs of British Seas Fishery Enforcement before I took command of HMS Mersey.
What are your main roles?
As Commanding Officer HMS Mersey, I lead my Ship’s Company of 48 to meet the requirements of the Fleet Commander. Our main focus is marine enforcement duties with the Marine Management Organisation, but we also conduct Maritime Security patrol around UK waters. We regularly interact with other agencies around the UK, such as the UK Border Force, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the RAF and UK Special Forces.
Why did you join the Navy?
I joined the RN in September 1995 after reading history at university. I knew I wanted to do something different and more active rather than read books and write essays, and the idea of working in an office did not appeal. I also knew that, as a naval officer, I would get lots of responsibility at a young age, and the opportunity to get paid to travel around the world definitely sounded good.
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, 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.
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.