Life Aboard Ship

May 30, 2016

Port de Montréal - Spring 2016

March 13, 2016. The Federal Barents arrives at Lantic, in Section 46 of Sutherland Pier at the Port of Montreal, full to the brim with 31,500 tonnes of sugar.
The Federal Barents is docked at Sutherland Pier, close to the Lantic cane sugar refinery at 4026 Notre-Dame Street East, Montreal.

 

This bulk carrier, owned by Montreal-based international shipping company Fednav, left the Port of Punta Morales in Costa Rica on February 15, loaded with its valuable cargo.

On board, 22 men keep the impressive 200-metre long, 24-metre wide vessel sailing smoothly. The Federal Barents will be home to these seamen for nine consecutive months. When they head home to India at the end of their contract, their children will be taller and, for some, a newborn will have joined the clan. Not so for the officers, who are at sea for shorter periods of time, four or five months at the most.  For common mortals, it’s still a long haul!  
The Port of Mersin, Turkey

After unloading its sugar, the Federal Barents left the Port of Montreal on March 23 at one minute before midnight. Its next port of call: Thunder Bay, a city located at the tip of Lake Superior in Northern Ontario. There, the seamen will load grain destined for Turkey. They will then head back down the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Gulf, and cross the Atlantic Ocean to the large Port of Mersin in the south of Turkey. After that? We don’t know yet.

How do you manage to live aboard a transatlantic ship for long months at a time?

“We’re like a family!” exclaimed Captain Karl Fernandes, master of theFederal Barents. “Like most families, we help each other out, but we also have to cultivate the art of compromise and ‘living together’.” His crew consists of 22 mariners: eight officers, two officers in training and 12 sailors. Work is organized around a well-established schedule; every day, every sailor must be at his post for two blocks of four hours. And it’s four hours of solid work. As for the captain, he is in command of the ship 24/7. Of course, he is replaced for a few hours a day, but if the slightest glitch happens, he’s the one everyone turns to. Night and day.

Captain Karl Fernandes, Master of the Federal Barents

In the wheelhouse, the officers on duty carry out non-stop monitoring. This is where the ship is piloted by staying fully apprised of current weather conditions, the water level and traffic on the waterway. It is a huge responsibility, particularly when traffic is heavy or the weather is bad.


For their part, Chief Engineer Rajesh Kataria (in the hard hat), his second-in-command, Subramanian Ramanathan (third from the left) and their team are responsible for keeping every mechanical aspect of the ship in tip-top shape. Their job was completely transformed when the control systems of all their machinery was computerized.


Many technicians-mechanics used to work around the clock in the machine room to manually start the engine and, still by hand, activate all the mechanical workings.

Now all it takes is a touch of a button to turn on the enormous five-cylinder engine.

When they’re not working, what do the sailors do during the long months that they are shipborne?
A lounge has been provided for them. They can watch movies on the TV there and play games like checkers and cards. Thanks to Wi-Fi connected computers, they can take over a virtual helm and navigate for a while. Also, services such as Skype have revolutionized their lives. They can now communicate directly with their children, spouses and friends, and not only hear each other but see each other! “This reduces the pain of being apart,” said Denzil Mascarenhas, first officer of the Federal Barents.


Games are great, but the time comes when a body needs to move! That when a ping-pong tournament is a bit hit. The sports room isn’t very big, but they managed to install a treadmill and an exerciser as well.
Even at sea, there’s housework. Crew members have a laundry room complete with a washer and dryer.

Three times a day, the dining room welcomes the crew. Since almost all of them are Indian nationals, the cook doesn’t have to rack his brains to please everyone. The menu features typical Indian dishes: lamb curry, fish curry, chicken Korma, shrimp Masala, etc.


The kitchen is well equipped and as fine as any in a large restaurant.


Cook Surendra Durgekar, has several books of Indian recipes. He fills his fridges once a month. In Montreal, a cosmopolitan city, he has no trouble finding the ingredients and spices characteristic of Indian cuisine. Crew members on board the Federal Barents especially enjoy the very spicy dishes. “I go through six grams of chilli power a month!” said the ship’s cook.   

  

In the pantry, the cook has put away all the grocery shopping he did in Montreal – enough to last for a month.


And here are the fridges for fruit, on the left, and for meat, on the right. A third fridge is reserved for fish and seafood.


The officers have their own dining room.

Aboard the Federal Barents, the mariners have their own bedroom and, in most cases, their own bathroom as well. In a few cases, two rooms share the same bathroom. The photo shows the captain’s quarters. Those of the other mariners are not much different. Times have changed. It used to be that the captain was lodged in a veritable suite that was spacious and luxurious. Now, ships are built following efficiency and economic criteria. However, quarters are still designed to be able to accommodate an officer’s family, which happens frequently.

When not in the wheelhouse or piloting the ship, the captain works in his office. There are many forms to complete and, with the explosion of regulation in recent years, administrative tasks take more and more of officers’ time.


In his office, a large window lets the captain keep an eye on loading and unloading operations taking place outside on the dock.


Here is the infirmary, with its pharmacy. Every crew must be able to rely on crew members trained in life-saving and first aid.

Onboard living conditions have considerably improved over time. More than ever, they are governed by international regulations, and marine associations make sure that they are respected.  

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