Captain Vimar, Master of MV Shaoshing, recently spoke with us via an email interview, explaining some of the challenges his crew face during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they are coping with this. The crew has created a video showing their life onboard, which they have dedicated to their families and friends, helping people onshore understand their situation, and in solidarity with other seafarers around the world.
Read more and watch the video below.
How has life on board changed because of the pandemic?
COVID-19 has changed everything for us, the same way it has affected people onshore.
Our biggest challenge lies in trying to understand the virus and how it may be brought onboard so that we can mitigate this, while continuing to provide the same standards of service in a safe manner in our operations. One-to-one communication has also been greatly affected. When arriving in port, the shore team such as officials, pilots and persons involved in cargo work are required to come on board. Frankly, they are scared of us, and we are scared of them. We had to create an environment in which both teams felt safe to work. We divided our crew into teams - crew members required to meet with external persons and those who did not - and zones - areas where crew members can freely walk about and others with limited access.
It was also very important for us to uplift our morale. As the virus started spreading around the world, we were worried about our families and how they were going to cope without us and had to cope with the guilt that we could not be there for them, while they were worried about us. We were also stressed by the visits into infected ports, and the fear of infection coming onboard. A cough, sneeze or rising temperature for any other disease could lead to complications so we had to be in optimum condition.
My crew made this video to show our life on board during the pandemic. We want to show our families and friends how we are coping with the unprecedented situation, and that we are keeping safe, positive and happy onboard.
With the world on lockdown, it is very apparent that we are on our own and we have to be at our best. Seafarers are definitely up to the task with their years of experience and hardships they went through on ships. They know how to respond and adapt to the changing situation even while help was forthcoming. For this, I’m very proud of my officers and crew. I want to continue to motivate them, encourage them to keep going.
How do you feel about how the Company has supported you during this period?
Honestly, no one was prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. Thankfully, all our multi-purpose vessels are equipped with a pandemic locker which goes back 10 years - during the Ebola breakout, this was modified for use in a future crisis. Due to this, we had sufficient face masks and hand sanitisers on board. Our ship manager also supported us and worked with me closely to get everything in place so that we could quickly excecute our plans to mitigate the risks.
CNCo has always taken care of their seafarers. They increased our internet bandwidth and time limit, which helped relieve our mental strain as we could communicate with our loved ones. We were also given an increased allowance. We are very proud of the Company and grateful for their continuous support; we did not have other worries and just had to continue with our work and keeping safe. All these helped us to stay positive and keep going.
What kind of activities have you and your crew introduced on board to cope with the COVID-19 situation?
Every Friday, we have what we call “Seafood night", “BBQ night“ on Saturdays and curry lunches on Sundays. This is the CNCo style.
But we went further than that and started weekly competitions. So far we have organised fishing, bingo, horse racing, darts, play station and singing competitions, and onboard raffles. On Sunday night we brought in a new activity called “Cook to share”, where people of different nationalities (we have four nationalities on board) take turns to cook their local dish. This was a massive success! People downloaded new recipes and tried them out.
Everyone looked forward to these activities; it eased our tension because of COVID-19.
Lastly, what makes you proud to be a seaferer?
If you asked me this question before COVID-19, I would have said I was proud to carry on my father's legacy - he was a captain. But now with COVID-19, I have a different perspective.
A seafarer is a person who can live up to any challenges with dignity and pride, even without support or knowing the outcome and hazards. He/She can, with good training and experience, transform any challenge into an opportunity, an advantage. This is why I’m proud to be a seafarer now.
Seafarers should be called the Unsung heroes.
I’m extremely proud and happy to lead such great people onboard. Only we as a team know what we’ve been going through, but we never complain about the impossible and instead strive to achieve the impossible.
Captain Vimar and his crew would like to dedicate the following messages to their family and friends, people onshore and seafarers around the world:
COVID-19 never separates us
Be positive always
We stay here for you
Captain Vimar started sailing with The China Navigation Company (CNCo) in 2008 and has been the Master of MV Shaoshing since December 2019. With more than 10 years in a command position, he has been through various incidents and emergencies during his time onboard. He recounts that every incident has had a unique story with a happy ending.
One of the most interesting and challenging incidents that he recalls is of a rescue operation of more than 240 people from the Rabaul Queen off Papua New Guinea in 2012. He was onboard MV Kwangtung then, and commandeered the operation on scene, which involved 11 ships, three aircrafts and two helicopters with the support of the RCC Australia. For this, the Company and MV Kwantung received the Lloyd's List Global Awards 2012: Amver Assisted Rescue at Sea Award.