A Day in the Life -  Captain Jonne Vaalama, Ship Captain of the Kreuz Installer

I started my maritime career in 1992 as a seamen on a tall ship. In 1995 I moved on to mainly working in the roll on/roll off (RO-RO) ship industry which predominately deals with transporting wheeled cargo such as cars and trucks. When I was offered the opportunity to join an offshore vessel in the North Sea in 2000, I jumped at the chance and immediately knew this is where I wanted to build my career.

I joined Kreuz Subsea in 2012 as chief officer and was promoted to ship master in 2016. Based in Singapore, the company is an integrated subsea services provider which owns and operates a number of vessel and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

I am captain of the Kreuz Installer - a purpose-built subsea umbilical, riser and flexible (SURF) vessel which has in-built diving capabilities and two cranes to handle a variety of subsea inspection and construction tasks such as subsea pipeline installation and diving support operations.

My role carries a lot of responsibility as I oversee the safe and efficient operation of the Kreuz Installer which can be demanding at times. As we work all over the world, I have to ensure I‘m always up to date with international maritime law, flag state regulations and making sure the ship complies with the latest IMO regulations. Safety is also a top priority for Kreuz Subsea, so we have a number of internal standards and policies that also need to be implemented and supervised on board.

The Kreuz Installer is currently in Southeast Asia but no matter where we are, my day always starts the same with a 7am visit to the bridge. This is the hub of the ship, where I command the vessel and it is manned 24 hours a day. The bridge team will update me on any activities carried out during the previous night and at 9am, we have a project meeting with all client representatives, project engineers, safety officers and the offshore construction manager.

There are several parties involved in offshore projects, so it is vital we have regular meetings throughout the day to keep the project on track. We provide updates and discuss the current job scope in detail with the onshore management team via telephone, raising any concerns or queries directly to supervisors.

At 11.30am, the ship is preparing for an onboard shift change, so I attend meetings with the offshore construction manager, dive supervisors and other department heads where information from the morning meetings is relayed. This allows us to review the upcoming 12 hours of activity. I use the opportunity after this meeting to grab my lunch and also relieve the second officer on the bridge for his break. We are lucky as our onboard catering team are very talented and prepare a variety of continental and Indian cuisine dishes.

I also like to use my time to sit at the dynamic positioning (DP) desk to ensure my operational skills are always maintained. DP is a computer-controlled system which automatically maintains a vessel’s position and directional heading by using its own propellers and thrusters. It is widely utilised across most offshore vessels, so it’s important I keep my training up to date.

My afternoon is usually spent working in the ship’s office which can often take me right through to dinner if it’s very busy. This time can also be interrupted by the various safety drills which are conducted regularly and are imperative for the safety of all personnel on the vessel.

In the evening, I often meet with the offshore construction manager to catch up and review the current project activity. I also need to be available on the bridge if the team require my support or if there is any unusual activity happening. This can include going alongside barges carrying material such as concrete mattresses or if the Kreuz Installer needs to manoeuvre close to an asset for riser installation.

Although very seldom, I am sometimes requested on the bridge during the night if there is a critical operation taking place. As ship master, I don’t mind the interruption as I like to overview this activity and ensure the vessel and my crew remain safe at all times.

Subsea construction can be one of the most challenging areas to work in. While we endeavour to minimise risks, operations may require the vessel to maintain position in variable environmental conditions and in close proximity to live pipelines or assets. This requires our machinery and personnel to function flawlessly as there is no room for error.

I’m very fortunate to work with a very professional and experienced crew which makes my job much easier. It’s a huge team effort to run a project.

I believe it’s very important to look after your mental and physical health while away from your loved ones which can be for eight weeks at a time. I enjoy an almost daily workout at the ship’s gym after my shift is complete. I also have my electric guitar set up in my cabin as playing music helps me to unwind.

While my job may take me away from home for long spells at a time, every day is different with new operations and environments which keeps it fresh even after so many years. I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

Published: 27-09-2018

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