“...For me there is an incredible calmness in being surrounded by water.”
Cadet Frederik Eskild Jensen is studying to become a Master Mariner at Svendborg International Maritime Academy in Denmark. He is currently onboard a NORDEN tanker vessel, undertaking his first internship at sea. He talks to us about life onboard as a new cadet, and what inspired him to pursue a career at sea.
What made you pursue a career in the maritime sector?
I have long played with the idea of going to sea, and a lot of small factors from my circle of friends and life slowly but surely pointed in the direction of this career. The friends I have as sailors have talked positively about work and lifestyle, where you work a lot for a period but also have time off for longer periods. At the same time, it is a job where you have to use your head but also your body and that was important when I had to choose my education and career. Furthermore, I think the international aspect, both with colleagues but also in that you have to adapt to the different cultures you meet in the many ports you visit. Once shore leave is allowed again, it will be exciting to visit and experience a lot of countries.
Does the maritime industry run in your family?
Several in my family deal with the maritime sector, my uncle sailed for the Merchant Navy as an engineer, and later he became a ship inspector for the Danish Maritime Authority. My father worked for the maritime sector at the Danish Embassy in Beijing. Furthermore, I have many friends who work in the maritime sector, for example in the energy optimisation of cruise ships and offshore wind turbine installations. It just shows how versatile the industry is.
Which aspects of your job do you like the most?
The people - it is a career path, but certainly also a way of life, and you can feel it in the people you have around you on board, they are incredibly open, nice and willing to teach you, and are happy to lend a helping hand if it is necessary. It has been incredibly nice as a cadet on this first trip.
The unpredictability. I’m onboard a chartered ship, so we do not have a fixed route which makes it a little more fun, in my opinion, both when we try to guess where we are going next time, but it also gives a good professional challenge as sailing plans often have to be made for different routes/destinations so that the charterer can see which one makes the best sense for the ship.
The challenges: when you have a job where you sail with different goods, to different countries and to different ports, you often face many challenges. It can be when the tanks have to be cleaned and dried, or how the port in question wants the process to go. There are great demands on us to be ready all the time and to solve the various challenges we face in a safe and effective way.
The view: both at sea but also when you sail through some incredibly beautiful places. We sailed through the Strait of Magellan in southern South America and the Paraná river that goes between Argentina and Uruguay - these are two experiences I will not forget for a long time.
What is it like to be at sea and what does a typical working day look like?
It is an experience that is difficult to compare with anything else. For me, there is an incredible calmness, being surrounded by water and I think it is a very nice view to have at work. At the same time, nature can also show its hard side sometimes, which is an experience.
A typical day at work starts for me at 07.00, where I either help on deck or help the Chief Officer with some tasks. If I'm on deck, it's typical maintenance of the ship I help with – it could be painting, cleaning tanks, or lubricating our mechanical elements. There are many different tasks to take care of on deck and it is very variable what the day brings, but it is often instructive and gives a good understanding of the ship.
If I help the Chief Officer, it is typically more office-based tasks, such as making sure our warehouses have the necessary things, checking our medicine or maintaining safety equipment in collaboration with the 3rd mate.
At 12:30 after lunch I am on the bridge with the 2nd mate, here we review my training textbook and find some tasks we can go in-depth on with while we look after the bridge guard, it can be anything from how the electronic navigation systems work, to how to take a bearing using the sun. At 16.00 my working day ends.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your training?
As such, I have not had negative experiences with Covid-19 compared to many of my colleagues. Travelling in a world with Covid-19 is of course different than before, but for my colleagues that were on board when the world shut down in March 2020, they have, of course, felt the consequences of closed ports and an erratic world situation..
Shore leave is a sore point, and you can feel that it is missed among the crew. To be able to go out and experience the countries you are in and get a little respite from the ship. There are many who are looking forward for that to become possible again.
You can also feel the uncertainty about crew change. There are areas of the world you would rather not be in when your contract or sailing period is coming to an end, as there are still many countries that have challenges with Covid-19 and do not allow crew change. However, I think a lot of people are working to make crew change possible, even when the circumstances are difficult.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Looking 20 years into the future is a long time in an industry that is developing so fast. Hopefully, I’ll still be working in the maritime sector, whether it is onboard as a seafarer, or even controlling autonomous ships from Denmark remotely. I hope to have many more years as a seafarer - the work is so different depending on whether you are Chief Officer, 2nd mate or 3rd mate, so there will always be new professional challenges and many different paths you can take. Each ship is different, with new opportunities and challenges.
If you are interested in a career at sea you can find out more about the cadet programme at Norden-Synergy here: https://norden.com/career