- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

13 October2019; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

We had a bit of a bumpy ride last night but not as bad as was forecast. Today we had a dry day but the promised sun did not materialize and the wind blowing was much stronger and colder than predicted. Maybe because it is the 13th. today, the weather guru’s had a day off. Or what they say most of the time, the weather pattern did not follow the prediction of the computer model. These sort of things always remind me of the weather predicting capabilities of one of my uncles. He used to look at the sky and would then say, “Well if the weather does not change, I am sure it will remain dry today”. Sometimes his computer predicting model was off and it rained cats and dogs a few hours later.

Again a busy day in port, the Norwegian Dawn and the Riviera wanted to be in Halifax as well and thus the port was full. Halifax has 2 cruise ship docks. Pier 21 (the old immigration terminal) and pier 20 next to it. We were at 20 today. If there are more cruise ships then they get farmed out to the container piers or the side pier of Pier 21. And that is where the Riviera was today. Container piers are not ideal but what can you do when there are more ships in port. It means a longer distance to the town and also the souvenirs shops are inside Pier 20/21 so it is all bit of extra work. Most people do not realize that most likely at the same time there is a very upset Container ship captain, somewhere at anchor, having been bumped off the dock, or delayed, because those fur-coat boats have preference.

I did not notice it very much as I was holed up in the dungeons for most of the day. Part of my support program is to give the Engine Room a full Safety and Work Place Safety sweep. It is not that the engineers do not know what they are doing, on the contrary, but there is a certain moment that you do not see things anymore; because you are looking at them all the time. And that is the same for everybody. Ask any crew member how to open or close a watertight door and it will be done perfectly; ask that same crew member what the number of the door was that he/she just opened and there might be a blank face. The door number is there, 12 inches tall, but because you see that number all the time when you walk by, it does not register anymore.

I am absolutely not technical in regards to all the stuff that is down there in the engine room but that makes me sort of perfect for a safety review as a. I have to try and figure out what something is for, b. how you operate it, c. and when doing that how to do if safely. Many a time I have had to ask a crew member why do you climb upon something to adjust something? ………………. Answer, because it is easy. Yes it is, but if we install a little step, then it is as easy but a lot safer. And because they are always doing it like that, nobody thinks about a little step which our machinists can weld on, within an hour. So I give the whole ship a sweep  and point out small things for discussion and consideration for change.

It is the same at home. I am the safety and maintenance guru for the apartment building I Iive in and in the spring of this year I found a piece of fire strip missing on a Fire screen door. It had been like that since the construction in 1991 but nobody had ever noticed it. Including myself who carries out a comprehensive Health, Environmental and Safety inspection every January. So safety improvement never stops and a fresh pair of eyes always help. Easy to correct, order a new piece on the internet and install.

A view of the Engine room of the Zuiderdam. In port all the Watertight doors are  open and then can you see approx. 500 feet of extended corridor. Spotlessly clean and well maintained. No rust insight

The engine room of the Zuiderdam is in great condition for an almost 17 year old ship (if you count from the maiden voyage onwards) and thus the focus is on Workplace Safety. We take guidance from the OHS procedures of the American Safety System. Not because it is better than other systems but because it is in English and Our Flag State procedures are in Dutch. Worldwide the safety procedures from enlightened countries are nearly the same so it does not matter very much what you follow as long as it gets the desired result.

Reducing avoidable incidents and accidents to zero.  Although there are people out there who say that you can reduce accidents to zero I do not believe that as you cannot regulate and organize against people who have a breakdown of situational awareness or just a human moment of plain stupidity.  What you can do is train people to realize that they are entering an error chain and that way bring the accident figures down as close to the zero line as possible. That I do here as well as it seems that a wise word from somebody with 5 stripes has a bit more impact as from somebody with 1 stripe; although it should not, but that is also human.

Tomorrow we are in Portland Maine. A place I have not been to since 2002 when I was captain of the Maasdam. So it will be interesting to see what has changed in the last 17 years. I do not know if I will get the chance to go ashore for a moment as we have full CBP inspection because we are re-entering the USA. I travel on semi-work visa and I never know if they want to see me first, or last.

Weather for tomorrow: They are promising sunshine again with 16oC / 61oF and very little wind. If it happens that would be a very nice day. Sunny without a chill factor.





  1. Irene Verschoor-Loggen

    October 15, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Op dit moment zijn van de facebookgroepen Happy Cruisers en Vrienden van de HAL diverse leden aan boord van de Zuiderdam, die heel graag aan boord een presentatie van u over uw werk zouden meemaken, zoiets als het vragenuurtje van de kapitein!

    • Captain Albert

      October 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm

      Dank U wel dat U de tijd neemt om mijn blog te lezen. Ik heb aangeboden aan de Cruise Director om een HAL lezing tegeven. Men is aan het kijken of dat ergens in het drukke schema van het schip past. Dus afwachten maar.


      Capt. Albert

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