“I love the unpredictable” - Interview with Captain Pokora

Marek Pokora, captain of the 15,000 TEU vessel “Afif” sailing under our FE4 service, speaks about noisy nights, developments in China, and how he prefers to spend his free time on board.

The man has a thing for suspense and gripping stories. In his almost four decades at sea, including 23 as a captain, Marek Pokora has seen a lot. “We were once sailing on a con-ro ship (Container and rolling cargo ship eg. cars) from North America to Europe. I was working as a second officer and had night watch. The waters were stormy. And, all of a sudden, I heard this incredible BANG! I went outside to look into what was going on, but I couldn’t see anything. It was pitch-black and much too dangerous to be walking around out on deck. Then, the next morning, we all saw what had happened: A huge piece of breakbulk cargo, an industrial engine, had broken loose and fallen out of a flatrack and right onto another container.” Some tie-downs had also come loose below deck. “Some of the loaded cars were so battered that they looked like they’d been in a traffic accident,” the 61-year-old recounts. Even if the cargo is insured and he can do without these kinds of adventures, dealing with and resolving crisis situations is part of his job. And these are precisely the kind of challenges that he loves. “Every day is new and different!”

Pokora also likes for things to be exciting in his free time. For example, he especially likes to read complicated crime novels or psychological thrillers. “I’ve read almost everything by the German writer Sebastian Fitzek, but also of Michel Bussi, a French crime writer as well as Polish suspense author Remigiusz Mróz. I really recommend them!” the native of Poland says. Since his world becomes small and local from time to time, when not at sea, the captain enjoys spending time with his wife at home in the village near by his hometown of Bydgoszcz, which is halfway between Poznan and Gdansk. “Living in the countryside gives me good opportunity to ride my bike a lot. And that is activity I really like” he says. But the Pokoras also like to travel, and preferably by car. “Be it in Slovenia last year or Italy next spring, my wife always has everything perfectly organized, and I only have to be the driver. At home, she’s the captain,” Pokora says with a grin.

When asked about his work-related travels, Pokora notes that there are some interesting developments in China. “What amazing growth! I remember going there in the mid of 1980s as a young officer. My wife came along at that time. Beijing, the Great Wall of China, Tienanmen Square with its thousands of bicycles – all of that was really impressive,” the captain says, adding: “But there are quite a few cars driving there today.” Despite the modernisation of China, Pokora thinks that communication in its ports has some room for improvement. “My son laughs when I speak English with a Polish accent, but at least it’s halfway understandable compared to the Chinese accent,” he adds with a laugh.  

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