Lightning twitches, meter-high waves pile up, people in red survival suits swim in the ice-cold water. A helicopter lowers a rope, pulls people up, to safety. The wild sea is up close, which Hapag-Lloyd offers for prospective seafarers during safety training – but in the hall, neither danger nor helicopters are real.
Even the spray is simulated for this, explains Erik Hirsch, head of training for basic nautical training at the Hamburg shipping company. “In the paddling pool”, as Hirsch calls the maritime competence center in Elsfleth in northern Germany, the trainees practice emergencies. The two-week training course is the start of basic nautical training at Hapag-Lloyd.
Malte Rosskamp suffered a couple of bruises last year. The 19-year-old is one of 14 cadets – three of them women – who were hired as nautical officers’ assistants in 2019. In addition, there were four technical officer candidates, 14 prospective ship mechanics and trainees ashore. This makes Hapag-Lloyd, with 13,000 employees worldwide, the largest maritime trainer in this country, with over a hundred years of experience.
“A certain ability to suffer is part of it”
The training consists of twelve months of sea experience and a number of additional courses. Whoever goes through it can study nautical science, become an officer and later a captain and steer one of the shipping company’s 240 cargo ships across the oceans. The youngsters are in great demand because hardly anyone wants to go to sea all their life. “It’s a life full of hardships,” says Hirsch. “Months on the road, far away from friends and family. Not everyone can take it. A certain ability to suffer is part of it. ”Hirsch himself sailed the seas as a naval officer for six years and then studied industrial education.
The “necessary salt water in the blood”, as Hirsch puts it, comes from cadet Rosskamp from grandfather on Borkum. He grew up in a teacher’s household near Stuttgart, his grandpa taught him to sail, and as a schoolboy he did an internship on a ferry. When the big pots drove by on the beach, he dreamed of going with them as a child.
Now nine months, three voyages, tens of thousands of nautical miles behind him. He can navigate with radar, locate celestial bodies, read sea charts, knows accents and light systems – and is absolutely thrilled. Only Corona clouded his joy. When they came to China in February, they were allowed to moor in the ports, but shore leave was strictly forbidden. The first visit to China has to wait.