On 29 January 2011, the first Angolan SVITZER crews successfully completed their pre-sea training in Cacuacu just outside Luanda in Angola. The very next day the group headed  for Portugal and 12 weeks of intensive sea training aboard the Danish training ship DANMARK.

What better way to learn the ropes of basic seamanship and become aquainted with life at sea than to get a berth on board a real sailing vessel? After months of pre-sea training the Angolan cadets were looking forward to the next stage of their education with great anticipation - and maybe also with a twinge of anxiety. Many had never been outside of Angola before let alone inside an aircraft. But with good help from Project Manager Renata Moruzzi, the group got safe and sound through immigration and on the plane. The following evening, well aboard the three-masted, full-rigged DANMARK, the cadets quickly learned to tie the hammocks so they could get a good night’s sleep before the start of the training course.

Reaching Lisbon in the midst of winter the temperature barely came above 10° Celsius. Many of the cadets had never experienced such a cold climate, so the arrival of uniforms and working clothes the next day was very welcome. Furthermore, it was decided to provide the entire group with gloves. 

The first week on board the cadets went through a general orientation of the vessel. The cadets became responsible for basic functions such as general dayman routines in the engine room, on deck, in the galley, in the mess room and bread room. They also had to learn about cleaning, dishwashing and rigging up of the vessel. The cadets participated in all functions with great enthusiasm and were very quick to learn all basic functions. All made it into the mast, which in itself is an achievement with some of the cadets being rather mature with. Ages span from 19 – 46 years. As a general introduction and a link between the training they were about to begin and the work they would later pursue, the cadets were given an introduction to the SVITZER vessels operating in the Port of Lisbon. Finally, after having  participated in both fire and boat drills, the cadets were ready to  go to sea.

On Tuesday 8 February, DANMARK left Lisbon assisted by two SVITZER tugs in full salutation. The cadets were to have their first real sea experience with watchkeeping, lookout, steering and sail handling just as they would be learning first aid, general ship handling, navigation, engine theory and practice, sea safety and navigation. The weather was a bit rough outside Lisbon and since the cadets had not yet “gained their sea-legs” some of them experienced seasickness for the first time in their lives. 

Off Algarve practical sea safety training took place in the live environment. The cadets had to learn how to abandon ship, swim in a survival suit and how to turn over and enter a liferaft. It took some courage to jump 5 metres down and thereafter gain the confidence in the survival suit, but eventually everyone completed this part of the training to full satisfaction.

From Algarve the voyage continued. Watchkeeping, dayman work and school classroom training soon became daily routines. Unfortunately, “DANMARK” ran into severe weather and those who had not experienced seasickness during the first two days now had their turn. Eventually, the weather improved and the vessel could progress towards Madeira. 

On 21 February the vessel reached Funchal on Madeira Island, and the  students got the first opportunity to go ashore and experience a new country and its culture. At this point, two of the cadets decided to return back home. This was arranged and they are now back in Soyo, where SVITZER has managed to get them a job on the Bechtel site. The vessel was bunkered up, new provision received and the voyage now continued further south into much warmer and calmer weather.

Back at sea, the cadets eventually got used to the rhythm of a ship and fell into the normal routines, they slowly, but clearly, began to adapt and learning the trade. On 10 March the vessel reached its southernmost part of the journey arriving at Praia at Cape Verde. Again the students were allowed some time ashore in order to get a little break from the ship.The voyage from Cape Verde to the Azores was another good experience, where the cadets got more and more into the general tasks at sea. At the end of the leg, the  vessel ran into some more rough weather, but this time all cadets had long since gathered their sea legs and instead they enjoyed the situation. Together with the crew they sailed the vessel at its optimal logging almost 12 knots for sail alone!

On 4 April in the evening the vessel reached Ponta Delgada at the Azores, and with only three more weeks to go spirits were high. Soon the cadets would be on their way home. Including the pre-sea training, the group had been away from their families and loved ones for almost four months. The last leg back towards Lisbon included various examinations and assessments in order to complete the SVITZER Training Course and the basics to complete the Certificate of Compliance as Able Bodied Seamen according to IMO STCW 95. After the graduation ceremony in Lisbon the cadets returned to Soyo for their final training. A major task has been completed and hopefully some of the cadets will pursue further training to become engineers and navigators on board SVITZER vessels. 

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In order to ensure a training consensus and serve as a liaison between the cadets and the crew of the training ship, representatives of SVITZER joined the vessel. General Manager, Captain Michael Staufeldt was on board from Lisbon to Madeira. Group Marine Manager Jens Peder Koldkjaer Pedersen took the second leg from Madeira to Cape Verde. General Manager, Singapore, Niels Tinsfeldt joined the vessel from Cape Verde to Azores. Finally, Salvage Master, Michael Riddell from, Cape Town, joined the cadets for the last leg back to Lisbon.