Thomas V. Pedersen, Boat mechanic
Born and raised in Esbjerg. Trained auto mechanic in 2011, and afterwards Able Ship’s Assistant and Mechanist in ESVAGT. Boat mechanic in the Workshop in ESVAGT since 2019.
He uses his spare time on sailing dinghies and following Esbjerg Energy Hockey in Granly Hockey Arena, where Thomas is also part of the fan group ‘The Yellow Wall’.
Brian Kristiansen, captain, ‘Esvagt Njord’.
Studied at SIMAC and Marstal Navigationsskole. 37 years old, living in Børkop, situated between Fredericia and Vejle. Married and a father of two boys aged 7 and 9. He uses his spare time on hunting and teaching the family Labrador to pick up ducks and geese.
76 years old – has spend 55 years at sea. He lives in Esbjerg, married to Lene and father of Henrik and Jesper. Has four grandchildren
Leo Frederiksen was the boat captain the night, when 49 people from the capsized kingdom ‘West Gamma’ were rescued by the crews from ‘Esvagt Protector’ and ‘Esvagt Omega’. “I must praise the Danish sailors; there wasn’t the slightest thing they could have done better – from start to finish, “said one of the rescued, the Norwegian sea captain Asbjørn Rislaa.
“When you have been through wave heights of 8 m, you get a different perspective on trusting your equipment”
Innovation comes in many shapes and forms. Take the oblong piece of PU-foam attached on the three lifting eyes on an ESVAGT FRB, for instance. It does not look like much, but the foam is a hook pad acting as an extra precautionary measure, securing fixation of the hook from the vessel.
The hook pad is a great idea, that increases the safety level on a boat, that has already been augmented and adjusted for years. Since ESVAGT’s early years, the company has been building its own boats – and for just as long, the boats have been fine-tuned and updated. The hook pad has been developed by a team of ESVAGT-colleagues. When the initial idea was set, the 31-year-old mechanic Thomas V. Pedersen did the final design. He works as a service technician with ESVAGT FRBs in the workshop on a daily basis, and he does it with practical experience having sailed four years as an Able Ships Assistant with the FRBs as the most important work tool.
“The hook pad is a very small part of a large boat design. It is interesting to see, that the part, I participated in designing is present today on 51 FRB’s in ESVAGT as an integrated part of the company” Thomas V. Pedersen says.
A learning organization
The hook pad is the result of teamwork between the ESVAGT Operational Department and the Workshop; of 96 completed tests as well as a final approval from the ESVAGT Boat Committee who approved, that an ESVAGT-orange banana shaped foam disk is now an integrated part of the boat design.
“The teamwork and the exchange of experience is characteristic for ESVAGT. You are part of a learning organization and that adds value“, Thomas V. Pedersen says.
“You cannot go anywhere in ESVAGT without good arguments. If you have them, however, people will listen. It has been like this since my first stint as an Ordinary Ship’s Assistant and until I stopped as Chief Engineer and second commander on board”, he says: “Any idea from any part of the crew has value. You will be heard. This spirit is special to ESVAGT, I believe. Sure, the Master is in charge on board the vessels, no doubt about it – but the Master is also willing to listen, whether it is the youngest man or the cook speaking up”.
This approach is highly valued, Thomas V. Pedersen believes: “When you consider that all colleagues in ESVAGT have used this approach, it really does add value. All seafarers, who worked with the boats and wondered how to improve it, have had an influence on gathering the knowledge put into the boat” he says.
Experience and theory
Thomas V. Pedersen started in ESVAGT with a background as an auto mechanic. The first years he was on board ‘Esvagt Carina’ and ‘Esvagt Carpathia’ as an Able Ship’s assistant, before he changed for onshore work and studied for machinist in Frederikshavn. Via ‘Esvagt Stavanger’ he came to ‘Esvagt Cantana’ before he participated in getting ‘Esvagt Mercator’ to Denmark from Istanbul. He also managed to be on board ‘Esvagt Capri’, before he saw a new opportunity onshore and decided to go for it:
“They were looking for an employee in the workshop, and I thought: I have a fairly decent chance. Partly because I am a mechanic with a good grip on the theory, but mostly as I have the practical experience from hundreds of hours of sailing in the boats. I have some knowledge, the workshop does not. “When you have been through wave heights of 8 meter, you get a different perspective on trusting your equipment”, he says:
“It seemed very natural to take this new path and work with the boats today” Thomas V Pedersen says.
”In my opinion, all new employees should try a few stints pulling the handles on a group 3-vessel”
The first time Brian Kristiansen was looking to embark an ESVAGT-vessel, he could not initially find it. He was used to working in Maersk and Norden on very large vessels as an officer – now he was standing on the quayside in Esbjerg and looking for ‘Esvagt Echo’. “My wife had dropped me of in Esbjerg for my first embarkment. It was a low tide, and the vessels seemed even smaller than they were. We were not looking at the correct height”, he says.
He finally found ‘Esvagt Echo’, and despite the vessel being quite small, it was a perfect match: “The vessels I was accustomed to could store ‘Esvagt Echo’ on deck easily. Now, I was going to command a ship, where being able to read the sea was of importance. This presented a whole new challenge”, Brian Kristiansen says.
The fishermen can
‘Esvagt Echo’ was a great place for training:
“You can say a lot about the old fishermen, but they sure practice excellent seamanship. They know how to sail. Michael Bysted was my captain, and he was great at teaching. We are the same age, but he is very experienced. I was taught manoeuvring, navigating the current, and how to read the water”, Brian Kristiansen says: “These guys have worked themselves half to death on a fishing vessel. That installs a certain calm and vast competence for me to tap into”, he adds.
To him it was like acquiring a new degree.
“The approach was very different in Maersk and Norden, it almost felt like a completely different profession. The training you get at school on how to manoeuvre is in no way comparable to the training you get on board a fishing vessel. Standing beside a captain and him saying: “This is alright, however if you pull this handle, then…”. It is simply a great way of learning from an experienced colleague”, Brian Kristiansen says.
He disembarked ‘Esvagt Echo’ after 6 months; embarking on ‘Esvagt Observer’ instead. He stayed there for four years. This was where he really got the ESVAGT culture under his skin. “On ‘Esvagt Observer’ I was a part of the crew dedicated to following the rules. They had a lot of respect for the procedures, and it was actually quite simple: If you do your job as instructed and directed, then you are in the clear”, Brian Kristiansen says:
“When I changed for ‘Esvagt Njord’ as Chief Officer, my captain had a zero tolerance for not complying with rules and procedures. I liked that and found it an easy way to work. I have brought that philosophy with me: If you are within the lines, it cannot go wrong”, Brian Kristiansen says.
Safety requires dialogue
Brian Kristiansen wants to fit the best of it all from all vessels into his work life as captain on ‘Esvagt Njord’. ”In my opinion, all new employees should try a few stints pulling the handles on a group 3-vessel”. A theoretical background, such as mine, is good, but you will be a more complete seafarer if you have tried and learned more aspects of the profession”, Brian Kristiansen says.
“When you are operating near wind turbines, as we do on ‘Esvagt Njord’, I am very appreciative of having both knowledge and experience rather than just the theory”, he says.
Another element that adds value is the understanding of procedures and a strong safety culture. The security and confidence to act when called upon in a serious situation; something ‘Esvagt Njord’ experienced when a fishing vessel needed assistance after two explosions on board. The SOV assisted and all seven fishermen were evacuated. The crew was presented a safety award from Equinor to honour their life-saving actions.
“We acted on instinct, on a feeling of something not right. As seafarers in general, and maybe even more so as seafarers in ESVAGT, we are used to keeping our ears near the radio all the time. When the fishing vessel called for another vessel in the area without any response, I called to the vessel and asked if any assistance was needed. That was when they told me, that the ship was taking in water, and we launched our FRBs to aid them”, he says.
When the FRBs arrived, they found the situation to be far more serious than imagined. “Luckily, we had very experienced and professional seafarers in the FRB, and they soon called for further assistance. The situation was handled exemplary as one vessel and one crew”, he says.
”ESVAGT is a place where good ideas are heard – It is a great quality and helps to ensure that we are skilled in our work”.
“When the master takes the lead, it spreads”
Kurt Pedersen had half of his live on the sea as an independent fisherman when he applied for ESVAGT in 2005 at the mature age of 60 years. He knew several fishermen who had taken the same route, and in ESVAGT he found much of the unity and camaraderie, he knew and valued from fishing:
“ESVAGT was very familiar. I am from a time when Jenny (personnel manager for the seafarers; editor’s note) send a bouquet of flowers to the seafarers wife, when she needed to be allowed to send a sailor on an extra turn.” he says: “Back then, ESVAGT was a workplace where everyone knew each other. People ran the business as if it were their own, and there was probably a greater sense of co-ownership than there is in the company today“, says Kurt Pedersen.
The master steer
Esbjerg native Kurt Pedersen is a trained machine worker from Grumsens Machine factory. The money in the fishery drew him to sea, and he reached many years with his own ship before changing job. The experiences have been valuable in ESVAGT:
“As an independent fishing skipper, both seamanship and management are important. It is the same in ESVAGT. You have to be professionally competent, and you have to take responsibility“, he says.
The commitment begins at the top.
“When the master takes the lead, it spreads. A dedicated master, who has experience and a professional level helps to set the bar for the rest of the crew. This is how we maintain the culture” says Kurt Pedersen.
He thinks it should be possible to demand something from each other, and at ‘Esvagt Preserver’ he can give the young colleagues ‘homework’ “They need to know the vessel and understand where we are. We ask them because it is important and because we must be able to trust each other to be able to take care of each other” says Kurt Pedersen:
“I have had 55 years on the sea without incidents, and we have rounded 32 years on ‘Esvagt Preserver’ without accidents. It only succeeds if everyone support the culture and recollect that we should all come home unharmed to our family. We must remember that imprint. As BS Christiansen said on a leader seminar “You have to take control of yourself first. ESVAGT makes a living by selling safety, and if we are not able to behave safely on board ourselves, then we cannot help others“, says Kurt Pedersen.
Pedagogy is fun
Kurt Pedersen is 76 years old and admits that there are days when it can be felt: “It is not as easy as when I was young – it’s for sure” he says with a smile: “But I still think it’s fun. We have a really good camaraderie and we have two good teams on ‘Esvagt Preserver’. As long as I feel I has something to contribute I will“, says Kurt Pedersen. He likes to deal with young colleagues. “The pedagogical part and experience sharing are some of the things I think are fun about going to work. I think, I have something to offer after 55 years at sea, and it is nice that the young colleagues want to learn“, he says.
“When we train, we are familiar to our gear and our tasks. It gives a better chance to succeed”.
“We must be skilled and lucky every time”
Throughout a 35-year ESVAGT career, Leo Frederiksen has been in the fire more than most
First mate Leo Frederiksen had been employed by ESVAGT for four years, when one stormy night in August 1990 he was facing the ultimate exam as a FRB boat operator.
From ‘Esvagt Omega’ he had followed the wreched rig ‘West Gamma’ in battle with time, waves and winds from near by, but at 3 AM it lost the battle: The rigs oil installation Manager reported to ‘Esvagt Omega that they had to evacuate. ‘Esvagt Omega’ and ‘Esvagt Protector’ together with the tugboat ‘Normann Drott’ and the Norwegian Coastquard had followed the rig closely, got ready for a rescue operation.
“I remember the atmosphere as calm and focused. We knew what to do; they were in the water, we had a job getting them up. It felt like I was wearing blinders,” says Leo Frederiksen: “We had trained a lot, even in bad weather. Not so hard, nor at night, but we knew what to do and we trusted each other, equipped with our training“, he says.
There was a good reason to do so!
All 49 rig members on board survived the encounter with the waves. ‘Strill Hawk’ rescued four people from the water and ‘Normann Drott’ one; ‘Esvagt Protector’ rescued 16 people and ‘Esvagt Omega’ rescued 30, including two crew members from ‘Normann Drott’s capsized lifeboat.
“We put the boat on water 6-7-8 times, I do not remember exactly. Allan, Nikolaj and I fished people up; set them off on ‘Esvagt Omega’ and sailed back towards the helicpoter’s light cone for a new flock continuously“, says Leo Frederiksen: “When we finished, I was completely devastated. Physically and mentally, it’s hard to sail a boat in stormy weather and I was physically exhausted and mentally completely empty. There was human life at stake. But we had 30 people on board to talk to and help, so we had to wait to relax“, he recalls.
After setting off ‘West Gamma’s crew in Esbjerg and a debriefing with colleagues on land, ‘Esvagt Omega’ returned to work on the North Sea.
“We were with those we needed to talk to, so it was just good to be back at work“, remembers Leo Frederiksen.
That August night on the North Sea was a baptism of fire, but it has far from been an isolated incident for Leo Frederiksen’s career in ESVAGT. He has been involved in the evacuation of fishing boats hit by fire and capsizing coasters, and he has been involved in numerous rescues, operations and actions.
“I’m the type who hopes nothing happens! But if it does, we are ready, and it’s nice to know” says Leo Frederiksen. “To be ready, you must be able to trust yourself, your colleagues and not least the equipment. ESVAGT has developed good FRBs, and with continuous training in all kinds of weather, boat and crew are the best conditions to be able to make a difference. It is about giving luck the best odds“, says Leo Frederiksen:
“We are skilled and professional rescuers, but we also need a little luck. Can you find people? Do you get there in time? Five minutes later, the crew evacuated ‘West Gamma’ it capsized. We could have been left with a completely different situation that night. It takes skill to put a boat on ten meter waves, but it also takes a little luck to find people in the water. We must therefore be both skilled and a little lucky every time“, he says.
“When we train, we are familiar with our gear and our tasks. It gives a better chance of success”, he says:
” you never know what will happen or how you will react. Take the crew on ‘Esvagt Aurora’ which helped put out a fire in a gas installation on land. Or take the crew on ‘Esvagt Njord’ which had to evacuate many severely injured fishermen from a cutter that had been exposed to an explosion. It is a completely different situation than ‘just’ pulling people out of the water” he says: “It shows the ESVAGT attitude: if we can do something, then we do it” says Leo Frederiksen.