With the help of a trolley attached to the side, the crew of M/T Tellus do not have to pull the gangplank into position by hand anymore. Chief mate Per Axelsson is one of the creators of this ingenious construction, which gained an award from the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation in May.
When the tanker M/T Tellus started chartering in small harbours along the Norwegian coast, there were problems. Some quays had too much piping and construction sites where the gangplank should be put, and could not fit the ship. The deck crane, located in the middle of the ship, could not reach far enough to put the gangway where the quayside was less cluttered.
“We had to put the gangway out early and then move it by hand. We took one end at a time and zigzagged our way until it was in place. It was very heavy work with a risk of injuries and bad backs, and it took three or four men on the boat and a couple on the quay to do this,” says Per Axelsson.
Per and his colleague, David Gutierrez, the captain of Tellus, began to think about whether it was possible to avoid the heavy, dangerous work with the gangplank. The solution was two gangplanks with wheels. The first is mounted on the rail and is pushed back and forth into the desired position, while the second is a wooden structure which is pulled along the quay parallel with the first trolley.
“You only need two men to do this, one on the quay and one onboard, and the risk of injury has significantly decreased. It was completed in June last year and we use it about every two months,” says Per.
The rail trolley is a steel structure kept in a storage room on deck. It is quite heavy but can be lifted into place with manpower or the deck crane. The wooden trolley for the quay is light enough to be carried ashore.
“Either you have someone onshore who stands there to receive it, or someone takes it under their arm and climbs down the pilot ladder,” says Per.
On May 4 Per Axelsson and David Gutierrez were rewarded with 20,000 SEK at the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation’s annual prize day, which was held in the Swedish Sea Rescue Society’s building in Göteborg. It was David’s idea to submit the design, but Per says that most inventions are never reported to the foundation.
“When we talked about this onboard, we could count about a dozen things that different people had invented which we could have submitted. Why it doesn’t happen, I don’t know – maybe it’s just laziness.
Family: Wife. Four children of 4, 4, 11 and 16.
Home: A house in Fiskebäck in Göteborg.
Job: Chief mate, M/T Tellus, Sirius shipping.
News: Awarded SEK 20,000 by the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation for his invention of a trolley for the gangplank. He shared the prize with the captain, David Gutierrez.
Background: Started out as a fisherman after completing school. Studied to be a skipper and then started his own shipping company, Krabbeskär, along with his father and another family in 1997.Then he studied to be a captain and started in 1999 as first mate at what was then Brevik. When the shipping company was acquired by Sirius in 1998, he chose to stay with the company.
Born into shipping
Since both his mother’s father and father’s father were fishermen, Per was virtually born into life at sea. As a child he was often out on the boats and after his last grade in school, he began fishing full time. But after studying to become an officer, he changed to the merchant marine and for one year in the 1990s he was the owner of a bulk and tanker shipping company, Krabbeskär, along with his father and another family.
”It has probably given me a better understanding of those on the other side, too. You know that it is not just a matter of loosening the purse strings and ordering things – you have to think about the financial aspects too.
In the late nineties Per started work at what used to be Brevik, and is now Sirius. With a house, garden and children, he sees advantages to being employed.
“When I have worked my four weeks I can go home and be with the kids and work on the house. When we had Krabbeskär, we first worked onboard and then had to take care of everything else in the office when we got home. But I enjoy the freedom and variation at sea. I have a great job.