BACK IN DANISH WATERS – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
Day 3,572 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).
The final days onboard
We have entered the final few days onboard Maersk’s good ship Milan Maersk with her excellent and brave crew. My longest voyage at sea is slowly coming to an end. And so are the Friday Blogs.
Last week’s entry: BEYOND THE MEDITERRANEAN – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
There are exactly 200 steps from 2nd deck and all the way up to the bridge. But then again, you are about 60m (197ft) above sea-level when you gaze across the ocean from the Navigation Deck. I counted the steps. I’ve done that for a few ships over the years. The steps are where you’ll find me unless I’m carrying something heavy – then I’ll take the elevator. The average age of the crew onboard is approximately 39.5 years. With my 44 years of age, I am among the oldest onboard. When I left home in 2013, I was in the younger half. A decade is a long time. It has been intense. It has been demanding. Fortunately, it has also been rewarding. There is a very dark side to the accomplishment as well. Very dark. A side which few are aware of and which most have been shielded from. Over the years I have opened up for frustrations, disappointments, danger and hardship. But the full scope is not known to even my close friends or family. Remarkably it is known to a stranger turned friend. The Canadian filmmaker who has been working on the Once Upon A Saga documentary for Salomon the past four years. It has been his job to learn everything he possibly could about the accomplishment. And he has done that job well. Mike Douglas has met up with me four times. He has tens of hours of interview material with me. He has sifted through all of my video and all of my photos. He follows the Saga’s social media closely, and he has been to Denmark where he interviewed friends and family. Mike knows the Saga better than anyone (apart from me) and here’s what he has to say: “It is one of the most challenging adventures of our time and a monumental human achievement. Nobody has heard the real story. My intention is to bring it to light.” The trailer is ready and will be released on July 27th ;)
200 steps. Who would have thought?
It was a good call to join this ship for the journey home. Mukesh and Mads at Maersk in Dubai have been kind and helpful. They supplied me with several options for the return journey. Another option was slightly faster but involved three ships from Sri Lanka and not two. I could of course have flown but this 33-day voyage from Malaysia is definitely the way to go. Slowly feeling the humidity drop and the air temperature getting colder. Slowly seeing the landscape change to what looks like home. A slow countdown from 33 to 0. Time for the mind to get ready. Soldiers frequently return home from month long missions and find it hard to readjust to society. Expats return home after years abroad and find the transition hard and slow. I have been away for close to a decade under a lot of stress and pushing an immense workload. While your thoughts can bring you around the world in an instant, this for me, is definitely a case of the mind being slower than the body. My body will be back home, in the Great Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe, in just five days. The question is; how long will the mind take? I feel anxious. There is much of my future which floats in the unknown. But I am also looking forward to many things. And I already have plans running all the way into October. As such I have spent a lot of time at sea replying to messages, coordinating, and scheduling. The internet onboard isn’t great – but if you hit the hours before and after lunch when most are working then it’s alright.
We had another BBQ, another safety drill, and lately the crew has been busy with port calls.
In other news we have about a hundred people signed up to attend my arrival at the Port of Aarhus on July 26th. That is great! Especially given all the outside factors (holiday season, Wednesday, I’m not well known in Denmark). My homecoming will also be fighting for attention against Jonas Vingegaard who is set to win this years Tour de France - again. The Saga will lose that battle for sure. Jonas is a national celebrity and the Danes love Tour de France. If he wins, then Jonas will become the cycling events 102nd winner and rank among some 13,000+ people to complete it. I rank among 300 people who have been to every country and I'm the first in history that made it completely without flying. But can you even compare? There is no doubt that Jonas is an exceptional athlete and I hear he is down to earth. He won the Tour de France last year and was celebrated by tens of thousands at the City Hall square in Copenhagen. Yeah – no real competition there. Jonas will definitely get all the attention. Good on him. A modern Viking on two wheels. I’m happy to hear that so many of you are willing to come to mark the occasion when I once again return to Denmark; when the Saga will be both successful and completed. Due to the many registrations, we have divided people into two groups and everyone will get an email letting them know when and where to go. There will be an open reception for EVERYONE at 12-noon. Port of Aarhus will supply tea and coffee and I will be there for a meet and greet along with a Q&A session. So come and say hi and bring a friend. Limited spots for the ship's reception area have been taken, but please use the form to sign up for the 12:00 event so we can keep track of the attendees: https://forms.microsoft.com/e/4d84J1wyrb
Come and join: July 26th at 12:00hrs
Reception at Port of Aarhus main building: Vandvej 7, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Ah, the North Sea. Even the weather greeted me back!
We crossed the Bay of Biscay and made it into the English Channel. It is so narrow that people have swum across it. The good ship Milan Maersk passed several offshore wind farms which was another clear sign of being closer to home. The largest offshore wind farms are in northern Europe and offshore wind farms are in general exclusively found in Northern Europe and in South East Asia. A rotor diameter of about 170m (558ft) is not uncommon. The wind turbines are huge!
Captain Jogvan (right) and the pilot. Arriving to Rotterdam Port, Netherlands.
We had our first port call since leaving Malaysia when we reached Rotterdam: Europe’s largest port. The APM Terminal was impressive and a window into the future. The container loading and stacking in the port was handled by autonomous robotic cranes and computer-controlled chariots. It’s a crazy thing to behold. Chariots large enough to transport containers moving about driverless. Driverless cranes picking them up and loading them on or off the ship. The Saga reached the Netherlands on October 12th 2013. A few years later we returned onboard the good ship Maersk Caroline, under the command of Capt. John M. Coleman, on March 30th 2015, after completing the entire Western Hemisphere. A few years later I came back to visit Maersk and the Netherlands Red Cross in July 2017 having completed Africa. So, this made our 4th visit within the Saga. The air outside was fresh and cool – just like back home.
Two pilots (to the left) and Captain Jogvan and Chief Officer Nicolai (to the right). Arriving to Bremerhaven, Germany. I was there on Oct. 11th 2013 and have been to Germany many times since during the Saga.
Our next port call was Bremerhaven in Germany. A shallow port so the tide dictated when we could come in and when we could leave. Milan Maersk had a draft of about 12m (39ft) when we reached Rotterdam and around 9m (29ft) when we left Bremerhaven. That meant we had to take in ballast water before reaching our next port of Gothenburg (Sweden) to accommodate the cargo operations. It is a huge operation to take in ballast water but it is done with great ease. Simply fascinating. Massive amounts of water are taken in from the ocean and are placed strategically within different ballast tanks all across the ship. It can be done once Chief Officer Nicolai completes his calculations and then it simply becomes a question of pushing some buttons. The Bremerhaven pilot was flown out to Milan Maersk in a helicopter and abseiled onto the “Monkey Island” which is the area above the Navigation Deck. I’ve been able to use my Danish simcard while back in the EU, which gave me access to 4G! However, the network was terrible in Bremerhaven? I literally had better internet in Hargeisa within Somalia than in Bremerhaven, Germany. Go figure :) In other news Chief Engineer Stig’s lovely wife and two of his children joined us in Bremerhaven and the four will be disembarking in Aarhus along with me on the 26th. Their presence onboard adds a bit more life to the ship. I wonder if I'm still guest no. 1? :)
Looking across the containers in Bremerhaven. It looks like Denmark out there. But it is Germany.
I think it has once again become time to give the word to some of the amazing seafarers onboard:
“Fortunately, yes, this option has opened up again after being cancelled during Covid for a couple of years. The senior officers are allowed to have Wife (or spouse) and children aged between 4 and 18 years on-board with up to two times a year. There is no time limit set as such, it is only restricted by operational reasons like sailing in high-risk areas - dry docking - China Coastal where the authorities will not allow - etc.” - Chief Engineer Stig Hansen, Faroe Islands
“Nowadays, shipping companies equip their vessel with internet so anytime and everywhere we can communicate with our friends and loved ones and it eases our homesickness.” - Ordinary Seaman Phillip Bjorn De Leon, Philippines
“Yes, I do enjoy sunsets and sunrises too. The sunsets at sea is a mesmerizing view to watch. The sun slowly setting down through the clouds is something blissful - 3rd Officer Krishnanunni Suresh, India
“We don’t know what’s inside all the containers. Usually, it’s only the dangerous cargo containers and reefer containers (freezers) where that information is given to us.
It’s important that we know what’s inside of dangerous goods, in case of a fire in or nearby the dangerous cargo container for the crew’s safety. The same goes for if the container is leaking. In that case it’s also important to know, so we don’t pollute the ocean in worst case.
The reefer containers provide the information so that our electricians can make sure that the required temperature is correct all the time and that you as a consumer gets fresh products that’s been transported under correct circumstances all the way.” - Chief Officer Nicolai Bøje, Denmark
“After the completion of a contract, under a Danish flag vessel of this company, for Filipino crew which is 5 months, then we can go home to see our family and friends. All expenses including food, hotel accommodation, transportation and others are paid by the company” – Able Bodied Seaman Christian Pamintuan, Philippines
Plenty of Danish food onboard. Here I devoured some pork liver pate on dark bread. Yum yum.
At around 17:00hrs yesterday, the good ship Milan Maersk entered Danish National Waters. For several days we had been within the North Sea but now the water was Danish and that, as you all must know, looks very different from when it is German, British, or Dutch. The color of the ocean is slightly more beautiful and the air is a little fresher ;) Ah yes, humor is a way to relieve tensions but reality is that I feel full! My mind is overloaded with memories and impressions from a 9-year and 9-month long journey through every country in the world. I’m the kind of tired which sleep cannot cure and I have aged multiple decades since I last set foot in Denmark. This was the very last entry while at sea. The next one will be written from land and that might be the last one. There will probably not be an entry next Friday. The next entry will come somewhere down the line. This was entry no. 510. I hope you have enjoyed it and it has been a pleasure entertaining you. Thank you for all the kindness over the years. I’m sure you will enjoy the 2024 documentary, especially if you are one of the long-time committed souls of the Saga. And a thank you to Maersk and the brave crew onboard the good ship Milan Maersk for accomodating. May they have fair winds and following seas forever! :)
Healthy body - heathy mind. Or something...fresh off the treadmill.
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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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - almost home again.
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Once Upon A Saga