A Captain´s experience goes into the Oceanbird concept

“You have to re-think wind. It is not your enemy, it is your source of propulsion!” says Ulf Deutgen. He is contributing to the Oceanbird concept with knowledge that you can’t acquire behind a desk, and his ambition is to be the first Captain onboard.

Ulf Deutgen, with more than 30 years of experience at sea, started his career onboard sailing vessels and for the last year, he has been able to use this knowledge while contributing to the development of the Oceanbird concept. He is not the only one with sailing experience in the project, but the combination of also leading a crew that is transporting 7,000 cars across the oceans is valuable.

“My main focus is practicalities: will this work a windy November night in mid Pacific? I look at things that might need unplanned hands-on management. And what happens if the wind suddenly increases or change direction? I have seen wind turn 180 degree and increase from 7 meters per second to 30 in just 5-10 minutes. In traditional sailing vessels, the sails break. This is a safety margin; it is better that the sails break than that the vessel turns over. We might need more frequent weather updates and practical knowledge of how fast we can reduce the wing sail area,” says Ulf Deutgen.

High level contribution

Beside risk assessments, he has also been asked to give input to the ship design. A few weeks ago, he was hanging from a helicopter to investigate where the helicopter winch area should be placed on the first vessel from the Oceanbird concept.

“The Oceanbird vessels will have wings where we normally receive pilots arriving by helicopters, so it was important to find a new winch area. We also need to be able to use a helicopter in cases of sickness, accidents or other emergency among the crew.”

Pilot boarding a vessel
A pilot boarding a conventional vessel.

Ulf Deutgen in front of helicopter

Future Oceanbird sailors

Of course, he has also given a lot of thought to preparation of a future crew. He shares the opinion of Wallenius Marine HR, that it will be necessary with a special training program and a hand-picked crew.

“This crew must really be up for the challenge. They must know how to get maximal power exchange from the wind. The power that drives the vessel forward will not be under water, but on the deck. It might sound simple, but it is a different mindset. The commanders on the bridge also need to understand the technique behind the sailing system, if something doesn’t go according to plan.”

That is the kind of crew that he is hoping to lead as Master of the maiden voyage. He considers it as closing a circle, both for himself and for shipping in general.

“In the beginning, all vessels were powered by the wind. For the last century vessels have been powered by engine, but now it is time to once again use a power, which is renewable, for free and very efficient.”

Sustainability a key issue

Ulf Deutgen got in touch with Wallenius in the late 80’s when he was working on m/s Shamrock, a sailing school ship which is sponsored by Wallenius. Since 2003, he has been working as Captain on cargo vessels managed by Wallenius Marine. Even if Ulf Deutgen see Oceanbird as a technological challenge, he also appreciates the sustainability agenda behind the concept.

“Ever since I started as Able-bodied seaman 1989 on Wallenius’ vessels, sustainability has been a key issue. We have tried many different techniques to make as little environmental impact as possible. It has been fuel oil with a low sulfur content, tests with solar panels and a lot of other experiments. In Wallenius we have really done our homework. I am proud that already ten years ago, we started to develop a roadmap for zero emission shipping, and we are now realizing this through Oceanbird.”

Ulf Deutgen on bridge
“My ambition is to be the first Captain on Oceanbird. I started my career on sailing vessels and this would close the circle for me” says Ulf Deutgen.

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