Meet our Masters: Rene Kolbeck of the Sound
Rene Kolbeck set off his maritime career in 1985. He became captain in 2016 and has been employed by Svitzer for about 13 years over a couple of rounds since 1996. Rene and the crew on Svitzer Bjørn operate in the sound and between jobs they may be spotted at the berth next to P48, Svitzer’s global HQ.
On my arrival, Master Rene Kolbeck is waiting on the deck having a quick smoke before he and I are going to talk about how he came to drive a tug and what he loves about the job. Rene has a relaxed attitude and he is obviously confident about the job he is doing. He has been at sea since 1985 inspired by seafarers on both sides of his family.
In the mess room the rest of the crew are having their morning coffee. Everyone makes friendly jokes and I am handed a cup of coffee as Rene starts to tell me his story.
In the mid 80’s, Rene sets off his nautical career at the Maritime College and work his way up from deck hand, mate, and finally master.
“In the beginning of the 90’s, I worked on feeder vessels with three months at sea and then three months off. It worked well until, my wife and I had our daughter. I realised how much I was missing out and on top my wife was unhappy. So, something needed to change.”
“Within the last few days of my leave, I got a job on a tug and quit my deep-sea job.
The schedule on the tugs was a lot more family friendly, so I guess you could say that tugs saved my family life”, Rene remembers with a smile.
For the past twenty years Rene, has worked 3-4 week off and on, so when he and his wife celebrate their 25th anniversary shortly, they will in fact only have spent half the time together.
“Perhaps that’s our secret to a happy married life! One thing is for sure it takes quite a woman to be married to a sailor.”
The question is, if life at sea demands so much of one’s family, why do you then do it? To Rene it is all about feeding the restlessness he feels inside.
“I simply love this job, I love all the changes built into it. The changing schedules being with my family and then spending four weeks with the crew on Bjorn. I always long for the other. Life on board the tug has changes built in too, the jobs are never the same. Bjorn covers the Sound, so I get to work in at least three different Danish and Swedish ports; Copenhagen, Malmö and Helsingborg. Mobilising, towing, and maintenance all provide different variations that I really enjoy,” Rene explains.
“I feel lucky. Driving a tug is like driving a go-cart. I sometimes think of tugs as the Formula One of the sea. If you hold that thought, it’s hard not to enjoy what you do. So, I appreciate that Svitzer predominantly has modern ASDs. In my opinion, only Voith Schneider outperforms ASD “, says Rene.
Safety is high on the agenda at Svitzer Bjorn. In Scandinavia, quite a few months of the year are dominated by darkness. Darkness, wind, and rough weather are the parameters Rene points out when asked to estimate out what makes the job difficult.
“I am pleased, and my family is pleased too that Svitzer is serious about safety. It makes a big difference to me and not least it gives my family peace of mind”, he finishes.