Captain Kevin Beirnaert.
Captain Kevin Beirnaert was born in Gent (also spelt as Ghent and as Gand in French) in North West Belgium. His last name is prevalently known in Belgium and exists in several variations but historically all centered on the North Western part of Belgium which is called Flanders. His father went to sea as well and served as a Captain on Oil tankers and later on as a River Scheldt pilot. Being the only son, it should not come as a surprise that junior was taken by Dad on board the ships he piloted in the weekends. The consequence is understandable, he also opted for a seafaring career. Fond memories of those days while being raised by the best parents in the world a child can have. They are still his biggest fan club.
Ghent is a port city near the Scheldt River and was, especially in the medieval times, a very prominent port. The existence of the Castle of Gravensteen (which translates as the “House of the Counts) attests to this. Then there are the Guild houses of the prominent Guilds of those days when the town was a semi-independent City State. Later on the city was overshadowed by its bigger neighbor Antwerp. Today it’s a university town and cultural hub. But it did not have a Maritime School and thus Young Kevin Beirnaert had to move to that big neighbor next door Antwerp.
Antwerp (or Anvers in the French version) is a major port even while located quite a distance inland from the sea. But it is the major sea gateway for Belgium and in the old days this was the port where the passenger ships left for America, the Red Star Line, (later part of Holland America) and the Compagnie Generale Maritime for the colonies in Africa.
Thus a Maritime Academy was founded in Antwerp in 1834 to supply officers for those and other companies. The passenger ship companies are long since gone but there are still a large number of cargo ships and especially dredgers sailing under Belgium flag. For his cadetship he sailed on Container Reefers, which is the professional name for container ships with a large cooling or freezing capacity. A simpler name is “Banana Boats”. One of those ships was the ms Barrington Island see below.
While on board this ship i called at Miami and when he was working on deck he saw the row of cruise ships in the port and sent a postcard home, promising himself that one day he would also be working on a cruise ship. His Dad kept that postcard from 2003 and it is reproduced here below.
After graduation in 2004 he joined the world’s largest dredging company “Jan de Nul” and was assigned to the dredger Alexander from Humboldt. With this ship he worked in Dubai / Jumeirah for creating a complete new city, now world famous under the name Palm Island. During this period he was promoted to 2nd Officer.
Still pumping sand is not the most exciting thing in the world and when home on leave, he remembered the Cruise ship row in Miami again. He said to his mother, I want to see more of the world, so let’s go to The Netherlands, to the Holland America Line Human Resources office, and see if they can use me. Thus dressed in full uniform he appeared at the desk of Hal Netherlands only to be told we are full. Still he must have made a good impression because a week later he was called and advised that if he was available on short notice, then there was an opening for him. (Note: this is not unusual for a cruise ship company, as with so many crew and so many ships there is always something happening)
This was the year 2006 and he was assigned to the ms Rotterdam as a 3rd officer. Stepping back in rank when joining Holland America is the normal procedure as sailing cruise ships is such a specialized job that you might have the experience, but you do not have the knowledge yet. So how could a Belgium National end up with a Dutch Company? For that we have to praise the European Union. Through the years the schooling systems have been aligned, as far as quality and certification, and now any license of a country which forms part of the European Community can have their national license endorsed with a Dutch Certificate of Competence.
Thus he joined our flagship the ms Rotterdam (VI) and remained there until 2011 and in those five years he went up the ranks to First Officer. Then the rotation through the fleet started, to be able to move forward with promotion to Chief Officer / Staff Captain. A rank he attained in 2012 after having sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam and Veendam.
Then he settled down on the Eurodam for three years after which the request came to become part of the supervisory team of the first Pinnacle Class ship of the company. The Eurodam is a Signature Class ship and behind the scenes there are a lot of design similarities with the Pinnacle Class. The first ship was named Koningsdam (to honor the Dutch King) and for more than a year Staff Captain Beirnaert lived in Mestre, close to the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, just under Venice. After the successful introduction of this ship, he returned to Italy in April 2018 to supervise the 2nd in the class, the Nieuw Statendam (V).
The Nieuw Statendam was introduced with great success in December 2018 and it was then decided that he would also be assigned as Staff Captain to oversee the new building of the 3rd ship, the Ryndam (IV). In between there would be a slot as captain, as this was going to be the logical progression anyway.
On the private side Holland America also exerted it’s influence and as many of his colleagues, he found the love of his life there. He met Amber on the Eurodam in 2014 when she sailed with a mutual friends while on vacation. Friends she still had from her Holland America Line days when she worked as a Cast member with the Revue shows in 2010 and performed on the Zuiderdam and Prinsendam;………….. She then went to Las Vegas but came back for a cruise and the rest is history.
As we all know that a good man lives by the creed “She who shall be obeyed” and the Captain currently makes his home in Las Vegas where his fiancée performs with Cirque due Soleil. No time for a family but there are two dogs which take up as much time. These are Beaux and June. They are called Pomskies and are half husky, half Pomeranian. His fiancée thought they were going to be little huskies but the photos tell differently. Apart from spending a major amount of time keeping the dogs happy, there is also the small hobby of Moon shining. Making his own Vodka from potatoes.
On 8 December he was officially promoted to Holland America Line Captain. The First Holland America Line Captain with a Belgian Nationality. He will remain with the Nieuw Statendam until February 2020 as the Captain. After leave he will then return to the Shipyard in August for the May 2021 delivery of the ms Ryndam.