An officer and a gentleman on board


CAPTAIN ON THE BRIDGE: Captain Chris Hughes with a map of the local territory.

KUCHING: It is obvious that Captain Chris Hughes, Master of the MV Logos Hope, is on top of things on board.

He was just telling reporters from The Borneo Post and See Hua Daily News about how the fire warning system works when a pre-warning light flashed on in the panel.

The interview drew to a halt as someone made a phone call to the port side of the engine room to make sure the ship wasn’t on fire. It wasn’t.

Hughes said the pre-warning light goes on when there is a change in temperature, and the bridge will always check to make sure they don’t have a dangerous situation on their hands.

“We do fire drills and lifeboat drills every week. If any emergency happens, we are quite prepared,” Hughes said.

Speaking of emergencies, MV Logos Hope had a minor accident with another ship when arriving in Kuching on Thursday.

According to the captain, the river current nudged them into another vessel berthed at the Sim Kheng Hong Port in Pending, putting a small hole in the other ship’s bow.

“Nobody was injured. We cleared the area as soon as we saw something had gone wrong,” he said, adding that the incident was not due to any system failure on the ship.

Logos Hope sent engineers and welders over to mend the hole, and the other ship was able to set sail on Friday morning without any problem.

Hughes was just happy they were able to repair the damage.

“We’re here to help, not to cause problems!”

Hughes is a maritime veteran, having been at sea for over 40 years since leaving school at 17. He has been serving on a GBA Ship two months every year since 2006. For the rest of the year, he works as a North Sea Pilot, assisting captains on their voyages around the North Sea.

“I normally work one month and get a month off, but before coming here, I worked two months and have two months off,” he said, after stating that his stint on the ship started six weeks ago when they were berthed in Penang.

Laughing, he added, “Some people tell me to have a nice holiday, and I say ‘What holiday are you talking about?’”

Hughes initially only intended to put in two months with German non-profit organisation GBA Ships when responding to a call to serve God, but he loved it so much that he returned every year since.

He was Chief Officer on the Doulos in 2006. He was also training officer on Logos Hope in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2008. He captained Doulos on her final voyage in 2009.

As Logos Hope Master, Hughes is in charge of management, safety and security of the vessel for her crew and passengers and for the fulfilment of international maritime laws.

“I can serve people as well. Not just people on board but people at our ports,” he said. “Our mission statement is to bring knowledge, help and hope to nations. This is such a wonderful way I can do it.”

When he has spare time on his hands, Hughes often joins the various activities and seminars on board, and goes online to see what’s on the local news portals.

“Often it’s just going around talking to other crew members. We have over 400 people so you don’t run out of people to talk to! And I like talking!”

Gian Walser left Switzerland with his wife Eveline to work in the galley (kitchen) of Doulos in 1999. Today he is the managing director of Logos Hope, with duties that include overseeing the Leadership Team, encouraging personal growth within and giving direction to the on board community.

PEOPLE MANAGER: Managing director Gian Walser heads the Logos Hope community and takes care of the people.

Having served five years on Doulos, Walser is among the volunteers who stayed on long beyond the standard commitment of two years to provide consistency.

“If you look at it in terms of a business, 50 per cent of your staff are changing every year, and that’s a very fast turnover,” he said, pointing out that some people in leadership positions need to stay longer, along with people with needed skills.

Walser and his family were also among the 70 people who moved to Logos Hope from Doulos when it was decommissioned at the end of 2009.

“Logos Hope has 100 more people on board than Doulos. This is part of increasing our capacity. More people on board means we can have more people on the deck and around to interact with visitors.”

Visitors of Doulos will immediately see that Logos Hope is a much bigger ship. Walser said that this allows them to provide a better experience for the people.

“You might remember on the Doulos, we have the book fair under a tent on top of the ship, under the sun. Here, the book fair is inside, sheltered, air-conditioned and away from the rain. We have a bigger cafe and more space so visitors can interact.”

He assured that the heart of the community and their mission to bring knowledge, help and hope is still the same.

The ship communities have undertaken various aid and relief projects like matching up donated eyeglasses with needy people, setting up libraries, installing water filters, and building. All these were done with organisations or partners who either provide the logistics or continuity to the project.

The Walser family is one of the 18 families onboard. This amounts to around 40 children, who do have school to go to on board.

“There are two reasons why we have families on board,” Walser said.

“It provides long term leadership. If I don’t make it possible for families to live on board, it is very difficult to get people to stay longer. I won’t do it. I’m very happy to be here with my family. If I was without my family, I would be somewhere else. It’s very simple.”

It is also nice to have families on board because it makes the community feel like normal, he added.

“Most people are between 18 to 35. Our youngest is half a year old, our oldest may be our doctor couple, who are 69.”

Living on Logos Hope is to experience what Walser called a ‘third culture’.

“We come from 50 nationalities. It’s not like going to one country and picking up the culture there. You create your own Logos Hope culture. It’s like a unique country.”

MV Logos Hope is now at Sim Kheng Hong Port in Pending. Opening hours are 10am to 10pm from Mondays to Saturdays, and 1pm to 10pm on Sundays. They close on Mondays, as well as on Oct 31 and Nov 8.

Entry is RM1. Children under 12 can enter for free but must be accompanied by an adult.