We parked our car right next to the gangway of the ship to unload the luggage. The crew put our suitcases into a net and hoisted it up to the upper deck while we climbed the 80 steps to report to the 3rd officer.
The ship was being loaded and unloaded. Gantries, cranes, trucks, forklifts, and large container handling equipment were moving rapidly. Much of the container loading and stacking in the ECT port in Rotterdam is handled by autonomous robotic cranes and computer controlled chariots. The chariots are unmanned and each carries one container. They navigate their own way around the terminal with the help of a magnetic grid built into the terminal tarmac. Once a container is loaded it is delivered to its designated place within the terminal. It all makes reverberating metallic sounds, containers slamming against each other as they are loaded onto the ship and cranes moving back and forwards.
Our new home for the next 28 days, the CMA CGM Titan, is 363 meter long with 30 Croatian, Serbian and Philippino crew members. Built in 2009 it can load up to 11400 containers, servicing the route between Hamburg and Korea. Despite its size, it can only take eight passengers.
We read about it on the internet, but the first impressions were rather overwhelming. Our car, parked on the two kilometres long cay directly next to the ship, looked minuscule next to its 20 meter high hull sticking above the waterline.
Edward, the Philippino messmann, welcomed us by shaking our hands and politely bobbing this head, before showing our cabin and giving us a tour through the living quarters. We had to take an elevator eight stories high to the F deck to get to our cabin, a mere 40 meters above the sea level, still two stories below the bridge! There are two mess rooms, three recreation rooms, a fitness room and even a swimming pool.
The crew was very busy preparing for departure and the 2nd officer Marvin explained to us what we need to know about life jackets, immersion’s suites, life rafts, emergency alarms, fire protection and more safety related necessities, which we hopefully will never have to use. Although all crew members were very busy, we could hardly see people around. In fact, with no other passengers on board yet, it all seems very quiet apart from the compressor noises coming from the cooling containers mid-ship.
The pilot boarded the ship and only 30 minutes later two tugboats pulled us out; we were heading south to Zeebrugge. It was a smooth crossing and when we woke up the next morning we already had docked.
Francien and I are still trying to find our way around this enormous ship, but I think it will take us even more time to get used to the nautical terms used by the crew: A captain is called the master, the kitchen is the galley, we eat in the mess room, our room is the cabin, a reefer is a refrigerating container and times are always based on the 24 hour clock. And what does a bosun do?
No time to get bored!