It’s a familiar exclamatory response when I’m chatting to current or former seafarers, but a valid one: “What, you’ve never been to sea…!?”
After several years of reluctantly admitting I had, indeed, not (other than the odd ferry, which rightly doesn’t count), I can now – after fifteen years of working in and around the shipping industry – say I’ve been to sea. Tick.
Truth be told, my first fully fledged voyage was not mucking in with the crew while sailing across the Indian Ocean for several weeks, but instead transiting overnight across the North Sea in late November with a cargo of containers and tanks on board the M/V Estraden, a Bore-owned and P&O operated 9,700 deadweight tonnes (dwt) Ro-Ro carrier.
One could easily conclude that there is nothing especially captivating about my virgin transit; yet the rationale for the voyage was more exciting: to accompany and film a video for BLUE client, Finnish-based technology company Norsepower. The Estraden is the first commercial vessel to be fitted with Flettner rotors that generate clean wind power to supplement the vessel’s main engines – reducing fuel burn, fuel costs, and emissions, including carbon.
During the voyage, the wind conditions were not quite ideal for delivering the maximum benefits that the rotors can produce. But I could see from the software consul that monitors the rotors on the bridge that clean wind power was still contributing 4% towards the ship’s propulsion. In more optimal wind conditions, the average supplementary power from the rotors on the Estraden is over 6%. It may not sound a lot, but to P&O, which pays for the fuel as the vessel operator, this equates to around $200,000 in saved fuel costs per year.
It really has been inspiring to see new, innovative technology working first hand – the crew onboard look at the two giant 18-metre rotors with a mixture of bemusement and pride. And as a new seafarer it has been just as enlightening to spend time with the incredibly hospitable Bore crew, as well as the Norsepower team and filmographer Guy Robbins. I’m hooked – it’s the ocean wave for me.