Posted by: Craig | April 26, 2008

First impressions – looking around Fidelio

There\'s an immersion suit for every crewmember. I\'ve never stepped in one in my life12.00

Took a taxi to the port gate this morning and once I had gone through the security at the port gate awaited the blue shuttle bus that ferries crew and visitors to and from the vessels in the port.

Standing by the gangway the first noticeable thing is the size of the cargo ramp. The width of a motorway lane, the ramp dominates the ship from astern.

On the quayside next to the ramp, row upon row of Volvo cars, and the conspicuous yellow heavy lift diggers, tractors and trucks, from Volvo and Atlas Copco, waiting to be exported.

Johan Hartler, WWL’s head of operations at the port, responsible for loading and discharging the freight meets me at the top of the gangway. All of his team, he says, are away travelling at the moment, so he’s down in the port today to oversee discharge and loading. The stevedores have managed to discharge what needed to come ashore for a couple of hours last night and are now loading prior to departure when I arrive.

As I stand by the security point before coming onboard, I notice the cargo deck, and what appears to be a sort of half deck, where I can see the rear bumpers of a row of gleaming Volvos, Saabs and some BMW’s loaded yesterday in Bremerhaven. While on the more spacious deck I am stood on, rolls of what looks like heavy cables are stored, along with some strange mining equipment. The heavier cargo clearly loaded as close to the centreline of the ship as possible.

By chance the vessel’s captain, Lars Falkenberg, comes up the gangway behind me. He offers a warm greeting and handshake and offers to take me up to the bridge where the second officer, Ellinor, is preparing the plans for the forthcoming passage.

He explains to me that the second officer is on the 4-8 watch, while the more senior third officer takes the 12-4, and the junior officer is on the 8-12 “Where I can still keep an eye on things,” explained Captain Falkenberg. That at least is the same approach across the world’s fleets then.

On the bridge I meet Ellinor. She offers to show me round the ship. This serves two functions, it makes sure I know how to get off it if something happens, and also lets me see just how much space the crew have onboard, as well as some of the gear the ship has.

First thing any visitor will see when they come into the accommodation is the massive two deck atrium outside the crews quarters, complete with wicker chairs and table and paintings hanging on the wall. A skylight lets in the light from above.

It is better than the hotel atrium I have just come from. I feel like I am on a cruise ship, it’s a bit surreal. I am used to crews accommodation added to a ship because it needs to be there, almost as an afterthought.

The captains and chief engineer’s area is like an office board room and the bridge is three times the size of anything I have seen before.

As the second mate shows me round she points out a few things to make sure I see them. Lifeboat – freefall from the stern with numbers painted onto the deck leading away from the boarding point. The company originally had the crew muster here, so had these numbers painted on the deck, Ellinor tells me.





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