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Jasper’s first big journey at sea

Do you still remember the story about our trainee Jasper Wiese? We first wrote about the budding ship mechanic in the December issue. Since then, he has completed his first longer journey on board a container ship. His experiences.

Since starting in the summer of 2015, Jasper Wiese has made it through several stages of his training to become a ship mechanic. By the end of November, he had learned the basics of shipping technology, navigation and vessel safety at the Maritime Competency Center. Then, at the end of the year, things got rather serious for him and 12 other trainees: On December 1, they went to sea together on Hapag-Lloyd’s “Kuala Lumpur Express” training ship for their first group journey – and had to show what they could do in a real-world situation. This finally marked the much-longed-for start of the second part of their dual-track training: the practical, on-the-job learning. “The first day was particularly emotional,” Jasper says. “On the one hand, you have to say goodbye to your family and friends for more than two months, but you’re also looking forward to the time ahead on board.” When asked what he was particularly impressed by, he says it was the size of the “Kuala Lumpur Express,” comparing it to “a small city on the water.”

Jasper Wiese on his first big journey on the "Kuala Lumpur Express".

Instructor Tobias Albert looked after the trainees on board. Having started out himself as a trainee with Hapag-Lloyd nine years ago, these days he helps budding seafarers get their bearings on giant container ships, familiarize themselves with everyday life on board and get used to what it’s like to work there, too. Their first day on board began at six in the morning, when the ship departed from Hamburg. At first, the trainees merely watched what was going on from the maneuvering stations. Then they hauled in the lines and cleared up the extra lines (which is how seafarers refer to tidying up). Later, the program included an “abandon ship alarm,” which involved manning the rescue boats. “The crew has to perform this exercise whenever over 25 percent of the crew is changed,” explains Albert, the trainer.

Instructor Tobias Albert started out himself as a trainee with Hapag-Lloyd nine years ago.

On Tuesday evenings, the newbies had to demonstrate how strong they were. “There was one exercise that has proven to be real muscle training,” Jasper says. “This involves hauling two new extra lines to the bow and to the stern, both of which are 200 meters long each. Even with 13 trainees, this is very exhausting work.” On top of that, Albert’s schedule also called for regular theoretical instruction. “I find it hugely enjoyable to pass on what I know,” the trainer says.

All in all, Jasper found the atmosphere on board very welcoming and collaborative – and with entire crew, rather than just among trainees. “We can ask questions at any time, even after the workday is over,” Jasper says. To this, Albert adds: “Of course, I am primarily an authority figure. But I also think it’s very important that we have fun together while working.”

Jasper and the other apprentices during 'sport for the arms'.

After having made stopovers in Rotterdam and Southampton, Captain Uwe Fiedler set a course for the US East Coast. Once there, there was even a bit of time for a brief onshore excursion in every port. For example, Jasper and the crew took a bike tour in New York, visited a shopping mall in Norfolk, and explored the downtown areas of Charleston and Savannah. In this last port city along the American coast, everyone joined together to celebrate Jasper’s 20th birthday. And after crossing back to Europe over the Atlantic, the “Kuala Lumpur Express” made some intermediate stops in the European ports of Le Havre, Southampton and Rotterdam. From there, it started heading back in the direction of Kaliningrad. However, it was snowing so hard in the Russian city that the ship wasn’t allowed to leave the port at first. In fact, the authorities only gave the green light for the ship to depart after the weather had calmed back down. Then the ship was able to set out on its journey to Hamburg.

When asked what the thought about his first group journey, Jasper says: “The time really flew by, and even after a few weeks, it still seemed like I had only been on board for a day.” Even though there was a lot of work, he adds beaming with joy, “going to sea was simply the best decision.” Meanwhile, trainer Albert is looking forward to his vacation, which he will spend on his sailboat. “I just can’t bear it without water or a ship,” he says.

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