THE LAST SHIP – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1

Day 3,551 since October 10th 2013: 203 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic! 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

A very special ship in many different ways

panoWhat’s next? I get that a lot these days. Kevin Hart did a standup special in 2016 and called it “What Now?” based on the same topic. “Haven’t I done enough already?” might be my reply for a while

Last week’s entry: The Penultimate Ship! – MV Gerda Maersk – passenger no. 1

Welcome to Stage III: the journey home. Something we have been working on for a very long time. The good old example of an iceberg only showing 10% of itself is true for many things within the Saga. Articles which people read in minutes have taken many hours in coordination and replying to questions. Social media post which people scroll past in seconds are often the result of research, editing and sometimes hours of work. And announcing I'm joining a container vessel is only the end result of emails, documentation, authorities, inspections, agents, and bureaucracy. I’ve seen a few messages from people who clearly think I returned to Malaysia planless and just got lucky with a ship I could join to Denmark. Imagine that. I guess we rarely know what the 90% of other peoples “icebergs” truly contain. What is going on inside people’s minds and what have they been through to be where they are today?


Joergen from the Danish Seamen's Club in Tanjung Pelepas helped me out with a simcard and with car rental. He provides service to 10-15 Danish flagged ships every week.


The signs in Malaysia are a little different than the ones back home (at least they were a decade ago).

Between signing off from the good ship Gerda Maersk on June 22nd and joining the good ship Milan Maersk on June 23rd I rented a car and drove 478km (297mi) in Malaysia. That was a bit of an adventure as drivers will overtake on the shoulder as well as on the lanes. Motorcycles come left and right – and fast! Drivers change lanes without signaling (and likely without checking their mirrors). Yes, good fun. I did it so that I could reach a region in the east of Malaysia and tick off a region I had not been to, thus climbing the ranks of the worlds most traveled people. I had two interviews and an online speaking engagement along the way and also had to get last weeks entry online. A highlight during the "adventure" was passing road signs warning against crossing tapirs and elephants! I wish I would have seen some, but all I saw were monkeys. Lots of monkeys. Some monkey roadkill too which sits differently with me than a cat or a bird. Well, the next monkey I will see will be at the zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The good ship Milan Maersk is a 2nd generation Triple E vessel (Economy of scale, Energy efficiency, and Environmental impact improvement). She is special for a variety of different reasons:

  • She is the BIGGEST ship I’ve ever been onboard! (399m (1,309ft)).
  • This is the LONGEST voyage! (33 days).
  • This is the 40TH container vessel within the Saga!


As we left Tanjung Pelepas onboard the good ship Milan Maersk, I could see: Mathilde Maersk, Maersk Nacka, Maersk Hai Phong, Maersk Tanjung, and Eugen Maersk (all in this photo).

I’ve been given the Owners Cabin onboard which is very large. Captain Hansen and Chief Engineer Hansen are both from the Faroe Islands and in spite sharing a last name they are not immediately related. The Faroe Islands is however a country with just a little over 50,000 beating hearts, so they are related. I’m happy that we included the Faroe Islands within the Saga (country no. 38) so I won’t have to walk the plank. Throughout all these container ship entries I have always named them “passenger no. 1” as I was once referred to as such on a ship long ago. This one is called “guest no. 1” as they kept referring to me as their guest during the first day. Chief Officer Nicolai Boje is Danish and gave me the familiarization of the ship. With just 33 years on this planet, he has already stacked up 13 years of seafaring experience. On the other hand, Captain Regin Hansen and Chief Engineer Stig Hansen were both sailing before the Chief Officer was born. The four of us all speak Danish and have had some really good conversations around mealtimes.


Mealtime presents a highlight three times a day thanks to Chief Cook Emelie Alarao and Steward Marco Tanate. Lots of traditional Danish meals too :)


Captain Regin sometimes helps out in the galley, especially to make koldskål (buttermilk), which is a sweet cold dairy beverage or dessert eaten in Denmark.

3c extra

Just look at them!!! Who could ask for better company at sea?!? Nationalities spanning Faroe Islands, Denmark, Philippines and India :) The flag/banner was made especially for this occasion.

This is an EXCELLENT ship to have as the last one!! The crew is great, the ships facilities are great, and the ships management is praised by fleet management in India as well as their superintendent in Denmark. Capt. Regin and Ch. Eng. Stig have a long history with this six-year-old vessel. They know the ship really well and given the captains forty years of experience you could say that he has seen it all. A strong collaboration between the Ch. Eng. and the Capt. is essential onboard, and it undoubtedly benefits when there is a shared language and nationality. I’ve now had a week onboard and Milan Maersk does seem extraordinary well managed. I gave that some thought and I figure its because both Capt. and Ch. Eng. are islands and village people. For many years now I have been under the impression that what shapes us as people is related to geography and surroundings more than politics, borders, language, religion or ideology. It appears to me that city people are city people, village people are village people, mountain people are mountain people, desert people are desert people, island people are island people, and so on and so forth. If you share such surroundings then you share the same blessings and challenges - and that shapes you. Cold regions, lush regions, wet regions etc. People are of course just people anywhere you go. But people who live under similar conditions are more similar than those who do not. Village people know their neighbours. City people usually walk past people they don’t know every day. Island people, particularly on small islands, were historically forced to work together to make things work – and ultimately survive. The Faroese leadership onboard Milan Maersk might just have brought village and island mentally onboard with them. And it works.


Looking backwards across the ship. The bridge is located towards the front.

I am a man who has seen and experienced a lot. I’m not easily impressed and a lot of what I see or hear seems to be some variation of what I have seen or heard before. I’ve been on 39 other container vessels and I have seen the bridge, the engine room etc. over and over again. This ship is different though! This ship is impressive in its sheer size!! 399m (1,309ft) in length is FOUR FOOTBALL FIELDS!! She is capable of carrying around 20,000 twenty-foot containers!! Each of the two anchors weighs as much as FOUR AFRICAN ELEPHANTS!! The two main engines provide as much power as 500 TOYOTA COROLLAS!!! She can carry 165.000 tonnes equal to 27,500 African elephants!! The propellers measure 9.8m (32ft) across!! Everything onboard seems so much more impressive because of its ridiculous size. Looking across thousands of highly stacked containers, staring down at the ocean standing 69m (226ft) above it!! Walking from starboard to portside would set you back 58.6m (192ft)!! Making a round on deck would amount to almost 1,000m (0.6mi)!! You could easily get lost in the engine room which is like a village!! For crying out loud: I had to take 67 steps just coming up the gangway!! I AM IMPRESSED!!! :)


BBQ at sea! :)


Chief Engineer Stig goes to work on this little piggy. I guess the wolf won.


Somehow, I have spent more time in the engine room so far than I have on the bridge which is highly unusual for me. All I can say is that it has been far more interesting than ever before. Ch. Eng. Stig gave me a tour which lasted several days. I now come with some general knowledge from all the other engine rooms I have visited and this time I had the advantage of asking questions and receiving answers in Danish. Ch. Eng. Stig has also been very patient with me and has provided good simplified answers. Maersk has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. The company is currently investing in ethanol powered ships, which may or may not be the future – but it is cutting edge. On the global market, the Triple E vessels are regarded as highly sustainable container vessels, and given the carrying power they provide, they are a far more sustainable form of transport than e.g. a truck. A standard truck would approximate have a 500hp engine and can carry two twenty-foot containers. Compare that to Milan Maersk and a truck would have to carry 118 twenty-foot containers to keep up.


A peak view down at a few cylinders on one of the main engines. Notice how many levels of the engine room you can see.


The size of everything onboard is baffling!


The fresh water generator draws in seawater and generates freshwater for drinking, showering etc. 

The engine room with its boilers, generators, compressors, ballast treatment system, freshwater generator, coolers, main engines and more becomes like a game of data and optimization. Nobody should fool themselves and think that its not a question of money. But the more efficient the energy output is compared to the fuel consumption, the better it is for the environment too. Stig is an old-school Chief Engineer who has kept up with the times. He can hear/feel if an engine is off balance even if the instruments aren’t reading any errors. But generally, it’s all run by computers today and the engine room crew does their part in optimizing the heck out of everything. A Formula 1 race car comes to mind. Perfection is the goal. The powers involved are by the way hard to comprehend. About once a second the almost four-ton cylinder makes a journey up and down! Try to imagine the force of something weighing that much rapidly changing direction twice a second!! Each engine has eight cylinders doing that! POWER!!


The engine control room. Squeaky clean and highly efficient. You can spot 2nd Engineer Nerfe Dango from the Philippines below the large screen.

Something clever which I’ve seen on other vessels too, is the waste heat recovery system (WHR). Milan Maersk has two funnels (chimneys) as there are two engines. Heat moves up and out of the funnels. Within the funnel water pipes are heated which generates steam, which generates power through a generator. That’s the Mickey Mouse explanation but the overall concept is that once the engine produces a certain output then the WHR can run a generator powering all the electricity onboard. As such the diesel generators are switched off saving money - while being better for the environment. That same generator powers the freshwater generator and as a result I can (technically) take long warm showers without thinking about the environment. The freshwater generator also provides me with drinking water saving the planet from plastic water bottles, which is something I personally appreciate, having seen far too much plastic waste around the world. There are several technologies onboard which Maersk is the only company in the world to use.  But I wouldn’t be able to explain them to you. They are not secret, just a bit too complicated for me :) All I know is that the engine room was mighty impressive and it seems like the kind of place where you can keep evolving your knowledge.


I was asked to give a talk and take questions at the ships cinema - yes, there's a cinema onboard. One of my favorite questions from the evening was: "did you survive?" I must have some compelling story telling skills to have people question if I'm alive :) The following evening we watched "Martha", a Danish classic from 1967, which is beloved by seafarers. Movie night with popcorn and all.


At the bow with Chief Officer Nicolai. The anchor chain on each side weighs as much as 54 African elephants! think about how much energy it would require to draw the anchor/chain back onboard.

Okay, lets round this entry up. Soeren and Ann-Christina from the project group are working hard on the homecoming in Aarhus port, which is less than a month from now. It might be epic! The Ross Energy team is working on a Copenhagen homecoming event, which might also be epic. I have also been working far more this week than I thought I would be. So, all in all I have not been resting and reflecting as much as I hoped that I would be. Internet strength onboard is fair in relation to emails and text messages. Running social media is somewhat more challenging. Likewise, downloading my BBC World News Podcast twice daily is a challenge. But it works. I have also been coordinating some future travel related events I have been invited to join, which will be interesting when the time comes. I’m furthermore trying to coordinate a new website for speaking engagements, book sales, and general collaboration. I’m speaking to a few interested publishers and some potential co-authors for the book. The Annual Report 2022 has been finalized by my friend Kuno Hesel at Tal & Tanker and is being approved by the board. And I am coordinating interviews in August for those which cannot be done in writing now. A really good read which just came out would be this interview for by Sara Reid. Enjoy and see you next week.


A half court? Sure, why not :)



I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross Energy / Geoop

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 Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - finally heading home.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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