“We don’t say ‘no’ easily and we basically love to take on a challenge. But this request really did blow us out of the water. Only figuratively of course. So we started by looking into a few things”, say Jan Willem and Peter Danser. One of the most important matters to be taken into account, is the Polar Code. The Polar code is a statutory obligation set by the IMO regarding the requirements for design, construction, equipment, training, search and rescue operations and environmental protection relevant to ships sailing in polar waters.
Jan Willem Danser explains: “Peter and I followed the Polar Code ice training course on Terschelling in order to get more of an idea, which is certainly necessary, to be able to sail the region. The ship also needed to be certified according to the Polar Code by October 2020. That gave us plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements.” After nearly 2 weeks docked in IJmuiden to make the necessary preparations for the long trip to Antarctica and to stay there, MV Trinitas set sail. The ship arrived on the South Orkney Islands in mid- January 2020, where the real adventure began.
In the region where MV Trinitas was to work, so-called ‘factory trawlers’ catch krill under very strict control and supervision. These shrimp-like crustaceans are processed into krill meal on board these factory trawlers, loaded into big bags and then transshipped into the MV Trinitas for transport to South America. “One of the factory trawlers we are working with is the old Vlieborg, a former Wagenborg ship that has been completely converted for this specialist work. Once again proof of what a small world we live in”, says Jan Willem Danser.
The big bags of krill meal are loaded onto the MV Trinitas on the open sea, often with huge swell and challenging weather conditions. Jan Willem: “We try to stay within the shelter of the coastline whenever possible in order to limit the swell problems. We place large Yokohama fenders between the ships to protect them in the swell wherever possible. As soon as we have attached our ship to the fishing boats using multiple lines, we can start loading. Luckily we have a very good crew (crane operators) who have been with us for many years. Without them, this type of work would simply not be possible. I would hereby like to thank my crew for their great dedication and expertise when doing this sometimes very challenging work.”
The icebergs and snow-covered mountainous landscape of Antarctica are an impressive sight, which Jan Willem Danser and Peter Danser feel privileged to be able to experience. On the other hand, this is a very intensive work in a dangerous region which must certainly not be underestimated. Jan Willem explains: “You need to be continuously 100% alert in such a region. The weather is extremely fickle and can switch from being calm to a full-blown storm and vice versa almost instantly. In calm weather, there is often thick mist, and heavy snow and rainstorms are a regular occurrence, following in quick succession. There are few locations where you can anchor because the water is generally too deep. And when there are options to anchor, they are often close to the coast, which offers its own dangers. Not to forget the many floating icebergs which you want to keep at a safe distance.”
At the time of writing this article, the MV Trinitas now lies at position 64-23.0 S 61-36.0 W in the Antarctica Peninsular, Jan Willem concludes: “I have mixed feelings telling this story, due to almost the entire world being in lockdown while we are enjoying the freedom of being on board. That’s quite a difference. On the other hand, we have our own lockdown as it were, seeing as the entire crew has been on board for a long time without being switched and seeing their families. I would therefore also like to wish everyone good luck in these days, and I hope that we all stay healthy.”