- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

27 December 2008, At Sea.

We had wobbly weather all day long, courtesy of a frontal system that had come down deep into the Caribbean Sea. Luckily the wind and waves were mainly coming in from starboard and thus the ship did not move very much. As it was sunny and warm guests could still enjoy the outside. The one nice thing about this weather system was; that it was moving over the Caribbean Sea and creating some calm weather in the Tampa area. Thus tomorrow will be a calm and sunny day while at the dock. The chance for fog is rather small as the wind in the Tampa area will only have just abated when we get there and that lessens the chance of fog forming over water. Inland there might be some as there will have been less wind to keep the haziness away.

I have 8 more days to go before I go on leave and have therefore started on my Captain’s handover report. This is a compulsory “piece of poetry” which each captain has to produce before leaving the ship. Apart from that it gives a summary of the past period for the boarding captain and it is also a report for our bosses in Seattle so that they have an overview of what is going on. The compulsory part comes under the company’s Safety Management System or SMS. Shipping company’s are required under Maritime Law to have a frame work in place that formulizes all the Rules and Regulations that a company uses to run itself. Some of those rules are dictated by Maritime Law but a large number are just necessary for the good operation of the company. Those are not required but if the company elects to make them part of the SMS system then we have to live by them.

To give a silly example; if it were a company rule that each crewmember would get a free ice cream each day then the company would have to implement and comply with that rule. Once a year a Lloyd’s auditor comes onboard to see if we comply and if the auditor would find that the company did not comply with the free ice cream issue then the auditor would note that in the report as a Non-Conformity. Then the company would be given so many days to get into compliance with its own rules. There would be nothing against removing the company regulation of free ice cream from the SMS but as long as it is in there, there has to be compliance. These SMS rules are, for HAL, documented in Marine Regulations. MR’s they are called and we have about 15 of them. They cover everything from Environmental to Medical, from Leisure to Nautical and from Technical to Human Resources. The company cannot put anything in it that goes against any Laws but it can put those laws in an operational frame work or put more stringent regulations in place. As an example, with Holland America,our environmental rules are much stricter than any Law that is currently out there.

So my captain’s report is part of this SMS and if I would not make one, I would create a Non Conformity. As the report relates to the whole ships operation, Hotel, Nautical and Technical, it takes a few days to compile it all. In principle I start the day that I board the ship by entering notes. The main basis for the report are the hand over reports of the chief officer and the chief engineer, input from the Hotel manager, plus own observations. From the reports of the two chiefs and the HM only those items are filtered out that are of direct interest to our head office and need direct attention.

Secondly there is the captain’s informal hand over report, which deals with the nitty-gritty stuff of the day to day handling of a ship. This report is only for the relieving Captain. The official report normally runs to about 25 to 30 densely typed pages and the informal one, to about 10………….. As my father would say, “It does keep you out of the Pub.”
As we left late from Roatan, I won’t be as early in Tampa as I normally like to be but we will be on time. The Carnival Legend, which is a faster ship, overtook us during the later part of the morning and so she will be ahead of us this time while going into Tampa Bay. I think she will be about 30 minutes ahead by the time we both approach the dock and that is just fine as she will not be blocking the channel when the Veendam starts coming alongside.


  1. A Cruise by any Other Name

    December 29, 2008 at 6:17 am

    When you disembark when going on leave, is a usual straight shot to the airport and the keronsene canary home? Do you visit friends and mates at the port or are there any final meetings/phone calls with home office?

    I don’t imagine you sitting at the pier wistfully watching your ship sail into the distance. Or will you that list time you leave Veendam for your the Prinsendam?

    Here is a related question? Are those who have attained the rank of Captain type rated? To use the airline example, a 737 left seater can fly all of the variations of the 737 from the -300 to the -900. Moving up in type (747, 757, 777) means more training and in the case of airlines a drop in seniority as you must work up the ranks to hold a line flying left seat in a new type. Plus there is an endorsement of type from the FAA.

    Are there levels of training and endorsements for a ship’s captain? Can you interchange between 77,000 tons to 99,000 tons or even 115,000 tons easily?

  2. Happy New Year and enjoy your last week on the Veendam.

  3. When I began watching the Eurodam-construction-blog many months ago, I ran into your “news-letters”, but only after our transatlantic crossing on Eurodam’s inaugural transatlantic sailing, August 2008, I began looking at your notes and found them an amusing and interesting read every day. Wish we had had your comments on that particular sailing, and all the ones before : we would then already have had a far greater understanding and appreciation of what was happening. Then I realized that you will captain Prinsendam, beginning 30th April, and we will indeed have the pleasure of reading-as-we-sail on our next crossing (30. April 2009) which we had booked over a year ago !!! We look forward to meeting you at the Mariners and Suites receptions and, as so many guests have done, thanking you for taking the time and effort writing, so we, your guests, can understand better !!

    Wishing you and your “superior management” a nice and uneventful last cruise, followed by a wonderful, fun break, doing all the things, seeing all the family and friends you might have missed during your turn of duty these past months. See you in April/May !!

    The Ewings

  4. I want to thank you for writing this blog. It’s been a fascinating look into the day to day operations of a cruise ship Captain and I don’t miss a day. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to meet you as I’m looking at the Prisindam for next year

    My fiancée and I will be flying out from frosty Canada to meet with your sister ship the Maasdam on January 2nd which will be my fifth time on that ship and my fiancée’s first cruise ever.

    One question Sir. Can you tell us both operationally and from a Captains perspective the differences between being the master of a midsized ship like the Veendam versus a smaller more intimate ship like your new command? Is the ship less or more of a challenge technically ? I would guess people would naturally assume a smaller ship is less str4essful to sail, but my guess would be that a smaller ship might be harder to sail and certainly more prone to the weather. From your itinerary you are also going to be going to allot of smaller more out of the way ports due to the size of the Prisindam . Which could take more creative docking procedures . On a ship thats hitting islands like San Juan and St. Thomas that have well established Cruise ship routines I would also guess that some of the places you will be calling at might not see cruise ships all that often and might not be as passenger friendly or set up to carry cruise ships and that getting your guests in the best possible docking space and making arrangements would be more of a challenge as well for your shore people.

    Do you prefer going to new poirts more frequently versus doing the same itinerary and the same islands week after week?

    Does the crew usually prefer a normal route that repeats or do they like going to newer places as well and do you find from a crew standpoint that it’s more intimate and relaxed. I know as a passenger the smaller the ship the more intimate and relaxed and also the happier I am.

    Though it’s getting harder every year to find anything 50,000 tons or under as new builds come in larger and older ships are repositioned away from the North American market or sold off

    You also said

    “If it were a company rule that each crewmember would get a free ice cream each day then the company would have to implement and comply with that rule.”

    So am I to assume then that there is no such rule? Well, that certainly is the final kicker on my applying to be a seaman. I was led to believe that rules of the sea required there WOULD be free ice cream everyday. Perhaps thats’s a tot of rum and I’m just confused.

    Happy New Year Captain!
    Mark Blei

  5. Missed Career at Sea

    December 29, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I don’t think you have to convince your readers anymore that Captains are busy bosses. It’s simply mind-boggling, and definitely not a job for day-dreamers . . . So refreshing to be reminded of the Dutch down-to-earth expressions [from Ede? – I don’t think Oosterbeek had any pubs 🙂 ]

    For your next Q&A session, if there’s still time for it, Captain; I don’t quite understand the difference between a Master of a ship and a Captain of a ship !

  6. Happy new years and a safe trip home .Will you be doing this blog from your new ship ?

    Mr Veendam

  7. Enjoy your last 8 days and may you enjoy your new endeavor. Peace be with you….We sure enjoyed the 14 days we were on the Veendam with you last June…..Hope your new adventures are fun and exciting and will look forward to reading your material in the future.

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