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Torben Vinkel

Steering the ship: Meet Captain Torben Vinkel of Blue Tern

We are proud to welcome Captain Torben Vinkel at the helm of our jack-up vessel Blue Tern. We asked him to tell us more about his background, his experience so far at Fred. Olsen Windcarrier, and where he believes the industry is heading.

What is your background in the industry?

I started at sea when I was 16 onboard the training ship Denmark, whereafter I was a deck boy and AB on Warrior cargo ships in worldwide trade. At 25 I went to maritime college, then re-joined Warrior cargo ships as a mate. I completed many long voyages and got my first ship as Master when I was 32. I became interested in construction vessels where the swings were shorter and the work more varied. 17 years ago, I got into wind turbine installation as Master with Mamoouth Van Oord and have been in the industry on various jack-up vessels ever since.

Why did you choose to work for Fred. Olsen Windcarrier?

I had heard only good things about Fred. Olsen Windcarrier and after eight years on Pacific Orca I was ready for a change. With new and larger generations of turbines on the near horizon, the business is uniquely positioned to help take the industry forwards with a fleet and team ready to handle whatever comes next. I’ve not been here long, but my experience so far has shown me that I made the right choice!

"There’s nothing more satisfying than completing a turbine installation with crew and onshore teams from all corners of the world coming together like a well-oiled machine."

What is special about Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s fleet?

While Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s fleet is second to none, in this business I believe that hardware is not as important as software – you can have a state-of-the-art vessel, but it will never perform successfully without the right crew. I have only had one swing so far, so it’s still early days for me, but I am pleased to say that we clearly have the right software.

What are your responsibilities as captain?

As captain, I am responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the vessel including its seaworthiness, safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance with both local and international legislations, and for all persons, cargo, and environment.

What challenges do you face on a daily basis, and how do you solve them?

There will always be challenges to getting the right weather windows for transiting, shifting position, and installing wind turbines, and experience at sea plays a huge part in adapting to changing conditions. The best way to prevent or navigate around potential issues that inevitably arise is with the five Ps: Proper Preparation Prevent Poor Performance. As Captain, the responsibility lies on my shoulders to make the right decisions at the right time, but fortunately, I am supported by many excellent crew members who I can see are clearly outstanding in their different roles.

"I see the ‘crew’ as a larger team than just those onboard."

What makes a good crew?

A good crew needs to be dedicated to the company, which they will be if treated well. However, I see the ‘crew’ as a larger team than just those onboard. Seamless cooperation between departments on the vessel and onshore is vital. When everything functions together well, a unit is made, and the right result happens.

What is your approach to keeping them motivated and efficient?

In our industry, we can at times be working flat out 24/7 for weeks on end, so when everything is done, the client needs are met, and the vessel is in proper order, it is important for the crew to have half or whole days off. Of course, it is always important to ensure that safety requirements continue to be upheld, but it is equally important to maintain a positive atmosphere amongst the crew. That’s why my door is always open for a chat – good or bad – or we arrange things like movie and games nights to help bring the crew and clients together.

In your view, what’s next for the offshore wind industry?

It’s quite clear that very big projects will materialize over the next coming years and already now we are seeing the need for new and bigger vessels. However, as always, the success of these vessels will be completely dependent upon people with the expertise to use them to maximum effect, which at Fred. Olsen Windcarrier I believe is one of our strongest assets. On a practical note, however, a challenge with newer and bigger vessels will be to find ports that can accommodate them!

What excites you most about your job?

There’s nothing more satisfying than completing a turbine installation with crew and onshore teams from all corners of the world coming together like a well-oiled machine.

What do you do for fun when you are not at sea?

I am without a doubt a family man, so all my free time is spent with my wife and children. We enjoy travelling (when not in lockdown!) and doing various water sports when the weather allows it.

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