John Freeland

Position: 3rd Engineer

When I was working with the UK company there was an engine room fire on Christmas day. We were sailing across Pacific towards New Zealand. It was quite an experience because it was the first time, I had experienced a fire on the boat. There was a lot of smoke and it was quite frightening initially. It was good we had a lot of experienced engineers at the time and everything went to plan with putting it out.

I’m the 3rd engineer, relieving – not permanent, so my main work is to support the chief and second engineer. I have experience in most areas. As a relief you don’t just use equipment willy-nilly. You need permission from the chief and 2nd engineer. I’ve been working with NIWA since 2016 as a relieving engineer and have 27 years of seagoing experience. I started in the UK company and was with them for 12 years. I ran away to sea when I was 21, then came to New Zealand. I was enticed to live here after that. It’s a beautiful country with a good lifestyle and beautiful women – I married one. In between jobs at sea I held mostly managerial positions on shore.

My favourite thing about your job is the camaraderie, the teamwork and close-knit community who support each other. Even though the ship is a small place to live on you need to support each other. It’s very important. You need to understand emotions, weak points, and if they are upset – you can’t just walk away.

I did a 3-year trip once. You signed on for a year and could re-sign for another year after that. We worked transporting frozen dairy produce from New Zealand to the Caribbean. I liked the variety of ports that you called on and the time spent in each port was enjoyable because we were in port for a week or so. It gave us a chance to see the city. Places like Trinidad, Barbados, Columbia were all ports of call. We also went through the Panama Canal 7-8 times a year, so I went through it over 21 times in 3 years.

To anyone who is interested in a career at sea, jump at it! I just wanted to travel and didn’t want to settle down at 21. A couple friends of mine had gone to sea before and I took the plunge! At the age of 70 I think I’ll retire… or maybe I won’t!