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1.3Thanks to a trolley on rails on the cargo room ladder, many back problems have been saved on board M/V Franklin. Among others, Björn Elmström was involved in the invention. He is a sailor down to his boots.

”To be forced to take an onshore job is probably the worst thing that can happen to a seaman. There is so much of a way of life in this profession,” he says.

When Björn calls as agreed on the evening of Sweden’s national day, the MMT ocean survey and research vessel M/V Franklin is outside the Hebrides, north-west of Scotland. For two weeks they have been sailing back and forth over a planned area to measure the depth. The ship will then dock for repairs for one week before they continue down to Belgium with a mission for ABB.

”There is quite a big difference on board, depending on the type of work we do,” says Björn. ”When we have a straightforward job, like now, things are fairly quiet, but when we run the underwater robot 24 hours a day there may be up to 32 people on board. On such occasions it is cramped on a small ship like this, and the survey team have to work in shifts and share cabins.”

Björn works six weeks and is then at home for the same period. During his last leave, he went to Stockholm to receive his prize from the Mercantile Marine Foundation for the ladder trolley which he and Joakim Gräbner, chief engineer, had invented. They had the idea for the trolley when a cargo hatch was blocked while a launch and recovery system was being installed. A lot of heavy parts were kept in the cargo space and when the hatch was blocked, the crew had to carry the items on a narrow ladder.

”When we were lifting the really heavy stuff, like 50 kilogram blocks, it got difficult. We turned to the shipping company and asked if there was no other solution, but they said it would be too complicated. That was exactly what we wanted to hear! We took it as a challenge and began to think about how to fix it.”

Together they sketched a trolley that could roll up the ladder. To prevent it from tipping over the sides or backwards, dual rails were needed along the edges of the ladder. The handrail also needed to be made wider so that it was outside the sides of the ladder. The trolley would be lifted by an electric winch fixed by the top of the ladder so that it would not get in the way.

”When we had made all the drawings and got the materials we needed, it took no more than three or four days to weld it together and get everything in place. It was not particularly complicated.”

Their creativity was rewarded with SEK 10,000 by the Mercantile Marine Foundation. Björn explains that it was the first time he had sent in a suggestion to the Foundation, but says that inventing and creating things is part of the profession.

”There is a lot of welding and turning and finding solutions. Solving problems is great fun, and you can’t help smiling when you see that things work. I guess you’re like a little boy sometimes – it’s fun to play,” he says with a laugh.

Björn has worked at sea since he left the Seafarer’s Academy in Stockholm 16 years ago. For the last thirteen years he has lived in Cebu City in the Philippines, but in the summer he and his partner are going to move back to Sweden.

”It will be fun, but I guess I’ll have to try to find a shop with some really warm winter clothes on sale!”

Linda Sundgren


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