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Preparing for a sea career

Finnwave - the best internship vessel of the year

The ro-ro vessel Finnwave, which currently operates on the Uusikaupunki–Turku–Travemünde route, was awarded for its excellence in providing supervised training for apprentices, often also called cadets, from maritime academies.

Shipboard training on a commercial merchant vessel is a requirement for future seafarers. After 60 days of sea-going service, the first certificate of competence can be issued.

“Nearly 400 apprentices per year experience the maritime industry first-hand on our ships,” says Petri Laitinen, Sea Personnel Co-ordinator, who is also responsible for shipboard training in the office. “Apprentices train in all departments, which means deck, engine and catering.”

Normal but supervised work 

Onboard all apprentices have a designated supervisor and they participate in normal duties, but under supervision. Apprentices undergo the same safety familiarization and job-specific introduction as the permanent crew, but they cannot substitute any crew. 

“On our ship the 1st engineer supervises and instructs in the engine room, the chief officer and bosun look after deck apprentices,” explains the ship’s Captain, Mika Käri. “We consider apprentices to be fully fledged members of our community.” In fact, familiarization starts before the apprentice has boarded the ship as he or she does not necessarily have any previous knowledge of work at sea. “Good manners and a positive attitude are important. I always encourage apprentices to introduce themselves to their fellow crew members as it will make integration with our community easier.” 

According to Käri, some mothering – or fathering – is needed as the stay onboard may be the first time an adolescent is away from home for a longer period. “Sometimes it is even necessary to instruct in domestic chores, like how the run the washing machine.”

Normally, the training period lasts 3–4 weeks, but Käri remembers how one engine apprentice was so enthusiastic that he practised a total of six months with only some 1–2-week breaks at home. Sea service does not only give an opportunity to gain practical experience, but apprentices will soon learn whether they can adapt to a working environment, which is alert 24/7 in changing conditions.  

The internship award is granted once a year by the Apprentice Mill, which was established in 2012 by the Finnish Shipowner’s Association and the Finnish maritime academies.