April 19, 2016

Bosun, or boatswain... no matter how you call them, a bosun is a key person on board an offshore vessel: the foreman of the deck crew. Joint interview with two BOURBON bosuns.

Their names are Frank William Isaac and Trond Haukas. One is South African, while the other is Norwegian. Working on two different BOURBON vessels, thousands of kilometers from one another, they have the same role, and the same passion: that of the bosun.

"As the bosun, I'm the link between mate and the rest of the crew. Every day, I plan the logistical and maintenance operations and make sure they are performed correctly," says Trond Haukas, bosun aboard the Bourbon Mistral, a PSV (Platform Supply Vessel) operating off Denmark. Depending on the type of vessel, PSV or AHTS, these operations include the loading and unloading of equipment, equipment refueling and transport, positioning oil platforms, and all of the vessel's maintenance operations. "I would also say that training is an integral part of the job," adds Frank Isaac, bosun aboard the Bourbon Liberty 305, an AHTS operating off Congo. "We must teach and show seafarers how to do the work safely. Our serving as an example as the bosun ensures onboard operational excellence."

Before becoming bosuns in offshore marine services, Frank and Trond both were seafarers in other sectors first: merchant shipping for the former, and fishing for the latter. "Practice makes perfect!" says Trond, who has worked for BOURBON since 2005. Like Frank, he learned his trade on the job. "The more time you spend on deck, the more experience you get in order to become a bosun. That's what enables us to share our expertise with our teams," confirms Frank Isaac, a BOURBON employee since 2013.



Performing operations in accordance with the group's safety standards is a top priority for our bosuns "It's up to me to identify any non-compliance or near miss and to inform the captain, the mate, and the chief engineer," says Trond Haukas. In particular, there is the stop work policy, which requires us to shut down an operation when an abnormality is detected, until it is corrected. The clear deck policy is another safety measure that is scrupulously followed: it requires clearing the deck entirely in anticipation of a load.

"Day by day, my role is also to take care of my colleagues and myself, for example by making sure of the proper wearing of personal protective equipment" Trond adds. It's a responsibility that Frank Isaac echoes: "I always tell my crew: watch out for yourself and for others. We all have 10 fingers and 10 toes each, and I want to keep it that way!"


"Our serving as an example as the bosun ensures onboard operational excellence."



As in any trade, there are difficulties. These can be personal or professional. "What weighs on me the most," says Trond, "is being away from my family for several weeks in a row." As for Frank, he notes an operational challenge: "My biggest challenge at the moment is overcoming the language barrier. My native language is English. Here in Congo, the first language is French. It's not always easy to communicate under these conditions!"

Both, however, agree on the advantages of the job: discovering new countries, the encounters, the cultural wealth they are exposed to... "China, Russia, Nigeria, Congo, Angola, Namibia: those are just a few of the countries I've been lucky enough to visit!" Trond enthuses.

As for Frank, he says he loves to share his experience of the sea with the other crew members, particularly those new to the job. He tells: "When a young person comes on board for 1st time and is feeling seasick, I send them to get for vegetables from the chef and make them a garland for around their neck, just for fun and to relax the atmosphere! It reminds me of my own beginnings in 1977, when I was getting on board for 30 days aboard my first vessel, a Super Tanker..."  It just goes to show that there are many ways to help bring us together, and that's preferable, since, as Trond says,"By working together, we do things in a safe and efficient manner."


Bourbon behind the scenes