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SSS-belöningsdag, 2013 018_sElectrical engineer Leif Näslund, aboard the M/S Isolde, is an exceptional problem solver. Last year he was awarded a prize by the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation for improving the lighting on the cargo deck, and at this year’s award ceremony he was selected for two other inventions.
“Seafarers must be a little like chess players, and always think in advance. As long as you can think for a little while, you can always find a solution,” he says.
Despite 40 years at sea, Leif has never lost interest in his work. He still likes to come onboard and try to find ways of improving safety and the work environment. In recent years he has been awarded several times by both his employer, Wallenius, and the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation for his innovations.
Last year he tackled the problem of overheating in the electronic equipment room on the Isolde. There are many devices in this space that are crucial for navigation and communication, such as the gyro, reserve gyro, telephone exchange and walkie-talkie system. All these electronics generate large quantities of heat and the original ventilation system was not sufficient to maintain the temperature at an acceptable level.
“It should not be more than 25 degrees in a room with this function, but we had between 35 and 40 degrees,” says Leif. “It is not good for the instruments, and the service guys who came onboard always complained that it was too hot.”
An easy solution to the overheating problem would have been to install a chiller unit, but Leif wanted to avoid that situation.
Chillers may contain freon, which could spread to the air people breathe in the event of a leak. They also require maintenance and are expensive to purchase and install. Instead Leif decided to use the surplus cool air from surrounding cabins to chill the space. A ventilation duct equipped with a damper was installed from the cabins to the electronics compartment.
“I got a motorman to help me and the job itself was easily done – it didn’t take more than a couple of days. I had the drawings in my head, which is always working away at something,” he says with a short laugh.
Leif explains that the installation resulted in a temperature drop of 13 – 14 °C, and the investment cost was marginal.
“The materials cost around 1,000 kronor and it was a lot cheaper than if we had purchased a chiller, which costs around 40 – 50,000 plus installation costs.”
From trains to ships
Leif has spent most of his working life at sea, but it was not there he started. As a newly qualified electrical engineer he started work at a company in Västerås, where he designed railway locomotives. But when he noticed in an advertisement that the Salén shipping company was looking for somebody with his qualifications for refrigerator ships in South America, he took the opportunity.
“I had grown tired of standing by the drawing board. I suppose it was also the desire for adventure that made me leave.”
In those days, 1973, idle time in the ports was long and Leif often went ashore. But even though shipping has changed a lot since then and he seldom leaves the ship these days, he has stayed in the industry.
“I’ve always got on well with my workmates and I like the atmosphere onboard. It was only when my son was born that I went ashore and worked with electrical installations in my own company for eight years, but then I went back to sea again.”
“The drawings are in my head, it’s always working away”
Doing only what is necessary has never been enough for Leif. He likes to figure out different solutions. Last year he helped the chef with noise levels in the galley.
“He was walking around with ear defenders while he was cooking the food. It looked pretty stupid, but the reason was that the extractor fan above the frying plate was always running at maximum speed and making a real racket.”
While he was carrying out some maintenance work there, Leif installed a speed control unit.
“I also fixed a small knob so that he can now adjust the speed of the fan himself.”
Leif is getting close to retirement. But even though he has a lot to do at home and is currently off work after an operation on a worn shoulder joint, he is not ready to leave the shipping industry yet.
“You have to be mentally prepared before you finish. I still feel relatively young in my mind and I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like if I didn’t go to sea.”

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