“Channelling” our inspection efforts

Sometimes we use unusual channels to provide service to our customers. That was certainly true for one of my recent jobs, where the channel we used was the Kiel Canal.

On 26 March, a request came to our international marine service hotline, asking for a service engineer to help with the inert gas generator on board. The request was for a service engineer to visit the vessel at a Danish dry dock at the end of April, so it was handed over to my team in Nijmegen.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, travel from the Netherlands to Denmark simply wasn’t possible. But we did find another opportunity: sailing with the vessel through the Kiel Canal. That meant embarking the vessel in Brunsbüttel and disembarking in Kiel-Holtenau, so the best way to get there and home again was by taxi.

As it turned out, the biggest challenge was finding a place to sleep for the taxi driver and myself, because all the hotels were closed due to the pandemic. In the end, the vessel’s agent arranged accommodation for us in a seaman’s house near the locks in Brunsbüttel. The road trip to Brunsbüttel took us six hours, and the next morning we went straight to the agent’s office at the locks. When I embarked the vessel, the driver continued to Kiel-Holtenau, so that he would be there to pick me up in the evening.

When I came on board, I naturally offered to bump elbows with the crew, rather than shaking hands. Funnily enough, this seemed to take them by surprise. Since they had been sailing from Canada, they had effectively spent more than 14 days in quarantine.

In any case, I met with the chief engineer and electrician to discuss the job’s scope. Since the transit time through the Kiel Canal is approximately nine hours, we estimated that it would be enough time to carry out the job. I managed the requested inspection, including the alarm and safety test prior to the class survey, and I even had time to identify a small issue that I discovered while testing. That required a part that wasn’t on board, so I arranged for it to be shipped from our parts department to the vessel, where the crew will replace it themselves.

The captain and chief engineer were very pleased that we could arrange the visit this way, and they were grateful to know what maintenance needs the IGG had before reaching dry dock. With everyone satisfied, I disembarked the vessel at Kiel-Holtenau in the evening, where the gatekeeper asked me, “Sir, do you want me to call a taxi for you?”

No need. My taxi was already waiting for me.


Edwin Luiken

Senior International Field Service and Commissioning Engineer

International marine service

Alfa Laval, Netherlands

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