Surveyor trainee recalls time at sea

Vassel Godfrey Johnson III, a surveyor trainee at the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands, recently returned to his post at the authority’s United Kingdom office after spending a month at sea.

On 1 November, Mr. Johnson joined the crew aboard the Stolt Innovation, a 100 metre, 48 tank chemical tanker, heading from Houston en route to Europe carrying a medley of alcohols, acids, sulphides and other chemical derivatives.

Mr. Johnson, 22, was inspired by his month aboard the tanker, calling it “an eye-opening experience”. He recounted his exposure to various areas of the ship’s operations, including bridge watch-keeping and operation during standby, chart corrections, passage planning, maintenance, engine room watch-keeping, engine and deck operations during standby and cargo operations.

“Most importantly was witnessing the day-to-day operation of a ship and what was required to keep it running,” he said. “Learning about the interdependency of the systems on board and what redundancies are built in was also interesting, from controlling the temperature and atmosphere of the tank and cargo in it, to the fuel quality going into the main generators and all the navigational equipment in between.”

Recalling his trip, he described his biggest surprise as the cleanliness of the cargo tanks.

“I had a preconception that it was going to be a large, dirty cavern, spotted with corrosion, peeling paint and cargo residue from 16 years of holding harsh chemicals.

“The tank, however, was in pristine condition, at 15 metres deep it was a cavern but not a spot of corrosion could be found,” he said. “All of the surfaces, equipment and pipes inside were not painted, but finished as a brushed shiny stainless steel that reflected what little light came in the access hatch lighting up the whole tank. The level of cleanliness inside required that shoe covers be worn to prevent contaminants being brought in from the outside deck as if it were a crime scene.”

Mr. Johnson was awarded the David Anderson Memorial Maritime Scholarship in 2008 and was originally accepted into the Bachelor of Engineering Honours Programme in Naval Architecture at Newcastle University after graduating Cayman Prep and High School in 2008.

He changed programmes in his second year to the Bachelor of Engineering Honours Programme in Small Craft Technology. He graduated last June with a master’s of engineering in small craft technology with honours and took a full-time placement with the authority’s UK office as a surveyor trainee.

In addition to his shipboard experience, Mr. Johnson has been actively continuing his education, gaining formal training at Warsash Maritime Academy.

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