M/s Delfin Star
m/s Delfin Star at Ocean Terminal
When the summer holidays were approaching our Class was asked if somebody would be interested in going to Hong Kong to replace the Chief Officer on m/s Delfin Star. As I had no commitments for the summer I thought I could do it, moreover I had never been working in the Far East so it sounded exciting. I got a call from the Manager and the deal was done, I was on my way to Hong Kong, 4 days after I had married Tiina-Maria.
Delfin Star was the first ship in a series of two for Delfin Cruises in Finland. They had thought it a good business model to build a new cruise ship every year and sell the old one on the 2nd hand market. The idea was good but the timing was bad. Customers were in plenty but in the end the Company collapsed due to lack of cashflow and the fact that the old ship would not sell for a good price.
The Company also had some loans guaranteed by the Finnish Government so the Ownership fell to them after the bankruptcy. After this the Government appointed Baltic Marine Consultng (BMC) to manage the ships and so they were chartered overseas to Far East. The charter contract specified a clause where the senior management had to be Scandinavian appointed crew (to look after Owner's interests), which is where we came in the picture. Delfin Star had Finnish crew that was Captain, Chief Officer, 1st Officer, Chief Engineer, 1st Engineer, Electrician and Repairman, the rest was Burmese, Malay & mainland Chinese and a few Filipino crew.
Delfin Star was built in 1989 in Rauma, Finland and had a LOA of 105 m with a gross tonnage of 5709. The crew was around 100 persons while guests were about 200. The ship was engaged in Casino cruises out of Hong Kong waters. The deck and engine crew was all Burmese and they were good guys, the Boatswain U Thein Win a.k.a. Jimmy, became my good friend and I visited him on several occasions in Burma.
As I was first time on a cruise ship there was a bit to learn about the safety culture onboard, it is not same as on cargo ships where to this day boat drills were occasions where we put the lifeboat down in the water on a weekend, threw in a few cases of beer and pottered away for a day of fun. There is also the added element of crowd control and evacuation that is not required on cargo ships (unless someone is missing of course).
Anyway, the Captain Ture Sundqvist was a great teacher as he had a lifetime experience to draw from Passenger ships. In the end he would also let me maneuver the ship. It was an awesome feeling having a big ship move at the touch of your fingers. The cruises we did were not spectacular at all, passengers came onboard in the evening and we departed for International waters, then the Casino was opened and the guests gambled all night long. In the morning we headed back and tied up at the Ocean terminal.
Maintenance was hard as the Chinese charter was stingy with buying stores or perhaps did not always understand what we needed it for. I started writing memo's explaining my needs and after that I got a bit more stock. Also the Burmese crew was a new feature to me as I had only sailed with a Chilean OS before so the cultural impact was there. Apart from some minor squabbles over crew food the Burmese behaved well and was respectful to me as a leader.
The Chinese people was a different ballgame, they spoke very little English, if any, and as they all think they will be the world rulers one day they did not give a toss of what we said. The interior was filthy and disgusting, the galley a catastrophe. I'm surprised I never got any stomach ailments from there. Captain Ture and me tried with meetings with the charter and Hotel Manager, they were always all smiles and positive attitude but in the end nothing happened. Warning letters were just paper for them, dismissal did not come in question.
Most of the mainland Chinese crew were female and apparently chosen by the charter boss, depending on their willingness of doing whatever was being told they got better job positions or, if not, they were relegated in cleaning crew toilets. The four months went very fast and by the time it was time to sign off we were drydocking for annual inspections and the regular Chief Officer came and relieved me.
As a footnote to this ship is that she was soon afterwards old to Samsung in Korea who chopped her up and wanted to make her a training ship for their staff but I think this never realized itself. Then it was bought by another party and she was refitted and renamed World Discoverer II and did expedition cruises to Antarctica and elsehwere. Now she is Owned by Silversea Cruises and renamed Prince Albert II.