When a tug caught my eye…
The following was written by AMER Marine Standards Superintendent, Enrique Villanueva, as part of the celebrations leading up to Day of the Seafarer with the theme, ‘Your voyage – then and now, share your journey’.
My maritime career began in 2006, where I first started sailing as a cadet and then later as a deck officer. During my seagoing career, I sailed on container ships but after some years at sea as mate, and by chance of fate, I temporarily relieved a close friend who was working on a tug. The towage industry interested me so much that I decided that my career should follow this pathway — my first change of horizons.
Svitzer came on my radar as 2011 was coming to an end. The story is a bit cheesy and sounds like something from a movie, but it is in fact a true story – and I have colleagues who can testify to that:-) One morning in Callao port in Peru, where I was working on a tug for another company, I was about to go on deck, and when I opened the starboard watertight door, I saw an imposing tug that had recently arrived at the dock on the side. Being amazed by her size, colours, and elegance, I quickly got ready and went out to find out what company it was. This was when I first found out about Svitzer.
I had friends who worked at Svitzer, and they told me about the culture, how safety was a priority and that management supported and encouraged continuous learning and development and rewarded hard work. So based on their assessment and encouragement, I thought I would fit in perfectly with Svitzer. To prepare myself, I gained more experience and knowledge about towage and in December 2013, I applied to Svitzer Peru for a Master position in the Melchorita operations (Peru LNG). I joined in January 2014, and oh! happy coincidence, I got to work on the same vessel that I saw that morning in November 2011 in Callao, the Svitzer Melchorita.
However, I felt that I needed more competences and more experience to make a difference among my colleagues, so I decided to leave Svitzer and go to offshore operations for little over a year. I returned to Svitzer in January 2016, and I have to say that it was a different Enrique that came “home”: more serene, prudent, and solid in his decisions.
When I returned to Svitzer, I was lucky enough to get to work on the Svitzer Melchorita with practically the same crew. I decided to make a difference, relying on the company’s safety culture. My effort was quickly recognized, and I had the trust of the management, which motivated me a lot. During my time as a Tug Captain, I participated in different projects and successful special operations in Peru and led the investigation teams following two severe incidents.
My dedication and commitment bore fruit as I was offered the position as Operations Superintendent in February 2019. The transition from sea to shore was interesting and challenging; it is not easy to go from peer to boss and from leading three persons to leading more than 60. However, with the support of the team and the excellent attitude of the crew, I can say that I was successful. My shipmates are and will continue to be my sea brothers.
In 2021, shortly after my father passed away (to whom I thank the teaching of dedication and discipline at work), I received a new proposal – a new change of horizon – as I was offered the role of Marine Standards Superintendent in the Americas regional office in Panama, which I joined in September 2021.
It has been a gratifying challenge to constantly navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of ship management and deal with the multitude of people involved in the operation of a busy towing company ashore and afloat. Our usual day-to-day activities make for a very full day, but the numerous challenges presented by various other projects make time fly by.
My voyage with Svitzer is definitely not over yet – there are still blank pages to write. I work hard and I continue to learn and train so that I am ready when a new opportunity presents itself.