What does your
workplace look like?

Passion for your job, good working conditions, nice colleagues - enough reasons to enjoy going to work daily. But a familiar workplace is also important. In the spot light this time the workplace of Mark Mölenberg Chief Engineer on the Ameland – Holwerd ferry service of Wagenborg Passenger Services (WPD)

“I have been at sea for 23 years now. I studied to become Maritime Officer at the nautical college of Harlingen and IJmuiden. Apart from becoming an engineer, you also get your certificate of competence. In the mean time I’ve been working for WPD for the last 14 years. Before this I have worked on several reefers and factory ships for 9 years, exploring the great international fishing waters. But at present I’m having a great time at WPD and my life is a lot more regular. This is important with a wife and three daughters aged 10, 5 and 2. I still miss the “real” sailing though. 

 “As engineer you’re responsible for all technical systems on board the vessel, ranging from the top light in the mast to a rattle in one of the engines in the engine room. You check and prepare the planning for maintenance of the technical installations for the entire ship. During every departure one engineer is on board, but since we are working with five shifts at WPD, we work in teams. Together we ensure everything is in working order.”

“If I start early, I’m on board at 05:30 to prepare for the first departure at 06:30. Going through the journal of the engineer last on duty and of course all fuels are gauged. During the night the ferry is moored just of the quay and makes use of a shore connection. Before disconnecting, the auxiliary engine is started. This is finished at around 06:00, when the main engines are started and the ferry is positioned underneath the car bridge. Loading can start from 06:15. During the crossing I’m mainly situated in the engine room, continually checking lube oil, cooling water, thermostats, filters, driving belts, etc. And doing some maintenance and fixing technical hitches.” 

“Oerd’s engines have reached a total of 48.000 running hours at the moment”

Running hours

“Since we don’t have mileage on hand regarding engine maintenance, we make use of running hours. The ships engines run about 3.000 hours annually. Oerd’s engines have reached a total of 48.000 running hours at the moment. You can roughly convert this to “car kilometres” with an average speed of 19km/hour (high estimate) and reach 900.000 km. For a diesel this is not alarmingly high.”


“To make sure the engines don’t overheat or jam they need to be cooled. For ships engines we don’t cool by using air (like with a car) but by using seawater. This system is called box cooling, whereby seawater is running across pipes filled with cooling-water. Because of the recent warm winter we have been bothered a lot by algae and barnacle growth on the coolers. Sometimes the engine temperature would get so high it prevented us from sailing full speed.”

“The Oerd and the Sier are being propelled by four Caterpillar 3508 diesel engines equipped with  reversing gear by Reintjes and a Schottel pump jet. These pump jets suck up water and under very high pressure squirt it out again. So, not powered by a propeller, but by using large water pumps generating a strong jet, 360 degrees controllable. The ferry has an extremely flat bottom and can sail through shallow water. The eight cylinder diesel engines supply 1.000 bhp at 1.550 tpm, are reliable and have excellent fuel consumption.” 


“Every engine uses about 130 litres of diesel oil per hour. We have four engines so if we sail to and fro once, we’ve used up about a 1.000 litres. With the current capacity of our fuel tanks this means that we have to bunker about twice a week. This bunkering happens so fast, the passengers don’t even notice it during loading and unloading. In 15 minutes we’ve bunkered about 25.000 litres. Bunkering needs to be done in good cooperation with the captain with regard to tides and currents.”

From charging batteries to breaking in…

“It happens regularly that a car on board the ferry won’t start, for instance because people forgot to switch the air-conditioning off during the crossing. We as engineers have special jump starters for this purpose. Keys left in the ignition and the door locked is also a regular occurrence. Usually I’ll have the door open in no time without damaging the car. One of the passengers once said jokingly: “They still exist the real burglars”.