Meet our very own Capt. Cristian Bacanu, the Master of M/T ‘Andronikos’! In his latest chat with @SAFETY4SEA, he shares insights into the bustling life aboard a VLCC. Leading with zeal, Capt. Bacanu emphasizes the importance of inspiring and motivating the crew, no matter the challenges at sea. His mantra? A captain’s strength lies in a positive approach and unwavering support for his team. Dive into the full interview to see what it takes to steer the helm with confidence and charisma!
SAFETY4SEA: What do you love the most out of your career at sea?
Capt. Cristian Bacanu: At the beginning it was the opportunity to travel. Back in 1995, it was the adventure of seeing the world. Nowadays, with fast-loading, offshore terminals for large vessels, this is no longer an achievement. Now, I like the newbuildings (four by now, and one vessel conversion). Being part of the team taking delivery of new vessels from shipyards is what I like most. It gives you the time you need to see and understand other cultures, and lifestyles of the local people, mostly in East Asian countries, like China, Korea, and Vietnam, having enough time to observe and learn, directly about their habitat, and not onboard, where lifestyle is less unique and representative due to number and ranks. The time spent in the shipyard also gives you the opportunity to see and learn more about the vessels.
S4S: What have you learned over the course of your career at sea?
C.B.: Teamwork is the keyword. Working as a team, forming a team, and most of all, leading a team. I can state that keeping the crew as a Team, was one of my primary goals at sea. There are various characters on board, and as a Team Leader, you must create the “chemistry” to keep it all together, to understand and mingle every person on board to fit in a bigger overall canvas. And above all, to be able to make the crew understand the TEAM concept, and act as such.
S4S: How would you describe your daily life at sea/ work in a few words?
C.B.: Being a Captain on a VLCC it is a dynamic role. You are the interface between Office and Crew, so there are a lot of office-like tasks. Then, the navigation part, routes, weather forecast, monitoring, the commercial side, with reports of all kinds, to the Owner, to the Charterer, and third parties. Then, maintenance planning and supervision, together with onshore department heads. End of the day, or in between, free time, gym, reading a book, watching a movie, talking to family, spending time with other crew members having a chat, playing cards, sharing thoughts … and finally going to bed, ready to start over the next day …
S4S: What is the most significant challenge that you have to face on board?
C.B.: The main daily challenge on board I would say is being an inspiration to all your crew. Leading them to a positive approach in meeting their daily challenges. Motivating your crew on a daily basis, mingling, and being present among them daily. Supporting and helping them to overcome their troubles, minimizing the negative thoughts of being far from home. In a few words, as much as possible, keeping a compact group living together, since for most of the crew, the time spent on board is at least equal to the time spent at home. So, we are talking about the vessel as a second home, and as a part of it, be the MENTOR, that all the crew will follow.
S4S: What is your advice to fellow crew members onboard?
C.B.: Well, as with all other topics in this questionnaire, the advice can only be subjective. I would say to everyone, to start, or to continue a life/job at sea only if they really like it. If there is passion, the results will come, and the enthusiasm will increase as well. The financial benefits count, but should not be the primary motivation. As with many other jobs in the world, working onboard, if not done with pleasure, enthusiasm, and dedication, finally will fail and will not bring any joy but instead, at the end of the active period, there will remain only frustration for performing a life at sea by inertia, driven only by salary considerations. Why? Because without passion, you will not perform always well. And work not done well will end up in “taxation”. Taxed by the sea, taxed by the weather, taxed, by safety aspects on board. Every single aspect of life onboard (and at home) will claim a part of the “penalty”. Taxed by the crew, taxed by the family, basically almost everything will turn against you sooner or later. So, do it right or not do it at all.
S4S: What inspires you every day onboard?
C.B.: Nice weather, a smiling crew, a clear horizon, and, beyond everything, a nice clear voice from home, a strong family understanding your absence, a strong wife taking care of everything and making your return home special every single time!
S4S: What has been the most extraordinary thing that you have experienced on board?
C.B.: The most extraordinary day that I have experienced, was my first day as a Captain, my first day of command. The very first day, when everything onboard was on my shoulders, without having anybody onboard to whom to report “JOB DONE”. That was the day when I started receiving all the reports. After that, many other extraordinary things happened on board various vessels under my command, and thank God, all the good things superseded the number of situations when clouds, and dark shadows made their way to the life onboard.
S4S: What is the one thing that should change to make life better on board?
C.B.: Simple things like standard contracts not exceeding 4 months onboard, better communication and information opportunities such as stable data connection both for business and personal use, and, for vessels with long transoceanic voyages, a medical assistance onboard.
S4S: What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career at sea?
C.B.: Do it right or not do it at all
S4S: What do you miss the most about your life at sea?
C.M.: Without a doubt time spent with family. Most of the time, this is the price one pays for freedom at sea. Everyone will decide whether it is worth it or not. Asking me again, I would do the same.