We decide to do the interview in the ‘Favoriet’, one of the meeting rooms at Wagenborg’s head office. Sietske doesn’t visit the office on a regular basis. She’d much rather stand on the bridge in charge of a vessel. She is the first female captain working for Wagenborg. Self-assured she sits herself down and starts talking spontaneously about her voyage on board m.v. Lauwersborg. Time for a talk with…. Sietske Vliegen.
“In 5 years time I hope I’ll still be sailing as captain for Wagenborg. Maybe on board one of the A-type vessels”
Sietske truly loves her work. Her modest and calm appearance quickly disappears as soon as she starts talking about sailing. We are discussing her job and in particular her first voyage as captain for Wagenborg. Her matter of factness is disarming and results in a nice and open conversation which I will remember for a long time.
After graduating from the nautical college in Rotterdam in 1999, Sietske came in contact with Wagenborg through an employment agency. “I remember it well: my first voyage as second officer on board m.v. Dintelborg. Since then I have always had a preference to sail for Wagenborg. Why? Well, pleasant people, a good atmosphere and the type of vessels. Actually, because everything is always well organized. In April 2004, I was recruited by Wagenborg directly as 2nd officer sailing on MSC Poland.”
Sietske sailed on many different types of vessels in the Wagenborg fleet, such as the old Roerborg, the M-types, V-types but also the geared A-types. “Especially these A-types were great. I love operating a crane! Normally you would delegate this to a bosun or an AB but as first officer I’ve regularly managed the people on deck from the crane”, smiles Sietske.
Still, Sietske left Wagenborg for a few years. “I got offered a job as captain on a mega yacht. My first thought was, I’m currently working as first officer deep sea, how can I possibly become captain on such a yacht?! But I’ve had some great years and visited beautiful places like Patagonia, the Antarctic and the Caribbean. Eventually I got in touch with Wagenborg again and within a few years I was promised a position as captain”.
Eventually this happened accordingly. After another three years of sailing as first officer, Sietske stepped on board m.v. Lauwersborg as the first female captain in November 2016. By doing so marking a special moment in Wagenborg’s history.
Sietske’ s first experiences as captain were very positive. “The Lauwersborg is a very nice vessel. She manoeuvres fantastically and is sailing in interesting waters with mainly short voyages between ports like Kokkola, Sundsvall, Pasajes, Bilbao, Ipswich, Dublin, Hull and St. Petersburg. For me this is the most fun since it’s more interessting in terms of navigating than doing long crossings constantly. It’s a pity though that it concerns mainly bulk instead of project cargo. But it was busy anyway!”
A men’s world
Sietske doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty; she’s even prepared to assist in cleaning the holds as captain. “No, this isn’t common practise and most captains don’t do this”, says Sietske. Maybe this is the reason why Sietske settled in so well in this men’s world which shipping mainly is. Sietske explains: “I just like working with men. In general men are hardworking and motivated people who will continue working until the job’s done. This mentality appeals to me.”
At the moment Sietske is again sailing on board m.v. Lauwersborg for her second voyage as captain. But who knows what the future holds. “Where do I see myself in five years’ time? I hope I’ll still be sailing as captain for Wagenborg. Maybe on board one of the A-type vessels… in the Caribbean... with project cargo… Where you will find me operating one of the cranes!” concludes Sietske, dreaming aloud.
“The Lauwersborg is a very nice vessel. She manoeuvres fantastically and is sailing in interesting waters.”