- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

25 April 2013; Huatulco de Santa Cruz, Mexico.

Indeed the winds stayed away and we sailed through nearly flat seas towards the pilot station.  This morning we were called by somebody who called himself Port Control. That was a new one as we had never heard about Huatulco Port Control before. It became very quickly clear that this person had been planning this conversation far in advance as his English was very basic. Your could almost “hear” him going through his notes and the questions he wanted to ask before starting the call. Confusion arose at once, as he had not counted on two things: a. being answered by an Irish officer, who pronounces things slightly different, b. Instead of get answers, he was getting questions.  That had not been in the preparation and thus the conversation died away quite rapidly. But he was shortly after replaced by the pilot who had the good news, that he was on station and that it was beautiful weather inside Huatulco Bay. No other ship was scheduled; I could do anything I wanted.  Knowing that the weather would stay nice, I opted for docking on the West side, nose in, so that the gangway would be in the shade of the ship for most of the day and at the same time reducing the walk into the port for our guests by about 600 feet –  ¾ of a ships length. More I could not do and it remained a very warm day.

Today I had something else on my hands. We have new legislation coming towards us. New is a bit much of a word; most of the legislation has been around in the form of various decrees and regulations that are part of laws that have been out there for a while but which are not specifically focused on the seafarer. Now The Maritime Labor Convention 2006 is coming in force, which pulls together under one umbrella all the rules that pertain to a seafarer. How he/she is licensed, how he/she should live, how he/she should get paid, what the rights and obligations are. It is all brought under one umbrella.  Holland America is a trailblazer here and we are the furtherest ahead of all cruise companies in the formal implementation.  99% of the issues in the MLC 2006 we have been doing for a long time already; the main thing we have to do now is to get the crew to understand the new frame work.

To put it simply; the crew knows how a car is parked. What they need to know is why it is always parked back in and why a Holland America car has four headlights and not two. (Only two might be compulsory, but if you opt for four, then the driver has to be able to explain the why…..) Thus today we held two meetings so that all crew had the chance to attend. Then in May there is an audit by an outside regulator and if we pass, which we will without issues as our standards are much higher than the requirements, we will be issued with a Document of Compliance. This means that each port in the world knows that the ship and its crew are in good order.

ilo2In the shipping world this MLC 2006 is considered so important that it is being called the 4th. pillar of the shipping legislation.


There is 1. Marpol (got a big push after the Torry Canyon tanker disaster in 1967) which regulates overboards and protects the environment.

There is 2. Solas (came into being after the Titanic) that controls the safe construction and operation of ships, and

there is 3. SCTW (which came to prominence in the 90’s) and which regulates the minimum knowledge and training a crew member must have to do his/her job. Now there is the 4th. pillar all that relates to how a crew member has to the job, how the environment has to be in which to do the job in and what is needed for the crew member to be able to do the job. 

This legislation has not been brought into being because of the cruise ships but mainly to protect cargo crew against the dodgy operators who are still able to operate at the fringes of the shipping industry. Now, as long as there is a vigorous inspection and compliance program by all the Port State Inspectors, these sub-standard company’s and ships will start to disappear.  Quite rapidly I think. Our focus is to score 100% during the coming audit and thus all my crew has to know why a Holland America Line Car has four headlights and not two.

We sailed on time and backed out (going astern in nautical parlance) all the way out of the port and then swung to the North West. Tomorrow we will be at sea and sail along the Mexican Coast, passing Acapulco around 08.00 hrs. The day after tomorrow we will be in Manzanillo. According to the local authorities, the ship has never been there.  It is a new port for me as well, so it will be of interest. Looking at the photos, they have a brand new cruise pier, which will make it nice to dock at.


  1. Good day Captain Albert! I’m just one of the hundreds of Filipino seafarers who had sailed under your command aboard HAL ship’s, sharing your blogs with us gave us more information. We are giving you our snappiest salute and always with high respect. Thank you Capt. Albert Schoonderbeek.

    • Hello Carlos,

      Good to hear from you. Normally you end up on the same ship as I do eventually.So, no doubt, we will meet again sometime in the future.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Cannot be more of an Irishman than have a first name of Paddy 😉

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