He has sailed for years as captain. He could already retire to enjoy undisturbed days at home, in a picturesque town in the water-rich province of Groningen. Yet, a sailor at heart, too much rest doesn’t sit well with him. Keep on Sailing is his life motto and, together with TOS, he travels around the world and loves the challenges that come with each new ship delivery. Last year TOS was awarded the project of assisting Smit Lamnalco with a series of mobilization voyages of five impressive RAstar 3400 tugs. Captain Frans Karmelk was responsible for transporting two of the five vessels: SL Curtis Island and SL Boyne Island.
Smit Lamnalco tugs to Australia
Karmelk: ‘I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia and New Zealand. It is a beautiful sailing area with, among other things, the Great Barrier Reef along the east coast. Due to the length of the two tugs, it was possible to make most of this voyage without a pilot, which is nice to do. Pilots are there to warn you of local dangers, so without them you have to be on the look out and steer clear.
The first trip with the SL Curtis Island was fantastic
After our departure from Tuzla, the first stop was to be Port Said. We reached Port Said in the morning and dropped the anchor. In the afternoon we went into the harbor, which was a unique experience. It seemed that just about everything floated by for inspection, from the police to customs and other officers feeling very important. Solution: Marlboro cigarettes. After docking, steel plates were brought on board for protection of the wheelhouse and razor wire to be installed on our voyage across the Red Sea.
Once we were safely through the Suez Canal, the pilot with us for this part of the voyage disembarked and in his place came three security officers on board. The security crew was fine and brought so many movies that each had plenty to choose from. After a smooth passage, we headed north to Colombo where we could bunk and replenish the supplies. Here we had to wait for the filters for the main engine. Although it took a while before we could continue on to Gladstone, the crew didn’t mind waiting in Colombo. Taking route past the Sunda Strait and the Java Sea, we travelled on. In the Java Sea, we stopped at a local fisherman for fresh fish. The Indonesian crew explained to us that the fisherman wouldn’t accept our offer of cigarettes, but wanted gas oil instead – a supply we much needed ourselves: nothing to trade, no fish.
Before entering Australian coastal waters, all information about the vessel and its crew had to be sent in by satellite. Upon arrival in Gladstone, an extremely friendly welcome, we were invited to eat at a local restaurant. The next day, the Indonesian crew could return home. Together with the Chief Engineer, I had to stay on board for 1 more week in order to complete the delivery of the vessel to Australia. After that, we would soon be home again.
SL Boyne Island: rough start
The second trip had bad weather conditions due to heavy snowfall. Both the airport in Istanbul and the Bosporus were closed for any traffic. Except for this beginning, the trip went more or less the same as the first. Though we experienced bad weather in the Mediterranean Sea, we passed quickly through the Suez Canal. We had no need to go into the Port, and so avoided the requests from the locals for Marlboro. When dropping off the pilot, the security crew came on board. We finished our stop in Colombo within 24 hours and so were quickly sailing on towards Gladstone, where we arrived without problems.’
Collaboration with Smit Lamnalco
Karmelk: ‘The voyages for the two ship deliveries were well organized from start to finish. The delivery of the vessels in Turkey also went smoothly. Gerrit Knoester, New Build Project Manager at Smit Lamnalco, played a big part in this. He was even given the nickname “Hawk Eye” by the Australian electrician. He saw everything that needed improvement. Goon Scheres, Sr. New Build Engineer at Smit Lamnalco, arranged everything for us: certificates, bunkers and, at the end of the voyage, also to a large extent our arrival in Gladstone, Australia. The collaboration went well during both voyages, both on a professional and personal level. It was terrific to see that the feedback we gave for possible improvements had been heard and already implemented in the next delivery!’