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Dry Dock Tales for a Training Ship

Last month, All At Sea reported on the name-giving and objectives of a Dutch Antillean training ship, the 10,000 ton freighter Karla-Omayra, and the five students that commenced the pilot project on board.  How are they doing after a month? From the dry dock in Tuzla Istanbul, Els Kroon reports the latest news.

What was supposed to be a dry dock period of “several weeks” turned out to be a stay of several months. At the time of writing Karla Omayra has already undergone a metamorphosis on the Turkish wharf, and the new painted hull makes her look as new. Many other technical jobs are being carried out to improve the ship for her new target. The dry dock period also provided the opportunity to take adequate measurements to avoid problems with pirates. Piracy still occurs on the seven seas, that’s no sinecure. Several parts of the world, like the Strait of Malacca are still notorious for this feared crime.

Despite many improvements and necessary audits concerning the ISP-code and the ISPS-code, carried out by Lloyd’s Register, Karla-Omayra was still not ready to sail in late October. Reasons include rainy days during the blasting-and-painting process and the fact that the dry dock time was in the middle of Ramadan, the Muslim time of fasting, when dry dock workers are not able to turn out as good work as usual—dock work is extremely hard labour.  At the end of the Ramadan, three more workdays were lost because of the Eid al-Fitr festival, when Muslims dress in their finest, enjoy visits with friends and family, give treats to children, and forget about work.

Whether sailing or not, for the students just being on board is a great learning opportunity in many ways. They already show quite a change in attitude, fast adapting to the professional crew and seaman’s life. That means being social as hard as you can. That also means spending together your working time as well as your free time, which can bring joy, but also irritation. The three cadets, Romeo, Dominique and Jorgen, experienced this for the first time and are getting along with it better and better. The two more experienced “Ordinary Seamen” (OS), Merwin and Joseph, showed a more adult attitude from the beginning.

For the cadets doing homework is also a part of the job, which they, as seamen-to-be, of course do not like. All five prefer a hammer or a brush to a pen or a keyboard. But also in the merchant navy, you have to keep taking refresher courses all your life. During the day, they are feeling fine in a boiling suit on deck obeying orders from the chief engineer, the chief mate and the boatswain. During the evening, the youngsters can be found in the crew mess watching the latest movies they bought in the streets of Tuzla and Pendik, the neighbouring villages. Some of them prefer to work out in an improvised gym, building up their arm muscles to a respectable size. There are no boring moments.

When asked to write a report for the project’s website one has to use a convincing tone to get them started. They would rather use the keyboard for video games and their minds for speeding up race cars or firing virtual machine guns. Most lines are in the Dutch language but hundreds of photos speak volumes for all nationalities.

The school NAZ (Nederlands-Antilliaans Zeevaart Instituut) and the ship are planned to serve all five Dutch islands, including St Maarten, Saba, and Statia, so in the near future, we may see students from these islands on the ship, not only from Curacao or Bonaire.

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