Chief Officer Marcin Kulas makes a round of the ship every morning, to check that everything is in working order – anything from the huge stacks of containers that descend far below the waterline, and almost as high as the bridge, to something as apparently small as a deck door that cannot be held open.
“These are the kind of things that are easy to overlook, but are really important to keep in good working order – because when you need it, you really need it immediately,” Kulas says.
Smudges of land are visible on the horizon – a Greek island here, the hills of Sicily and Andalucía to starboard and the desert mountains of Tunisia and Algeria to port. When a phone signal kicks in, crew members take to the bridge wings to talk to family back home.
The daily routine of shipboard life continues – tidying up the decks, minor paint jobs, preparing the paperwork for the next port call, logistics around crew members arriving and departing, checking the temperature and condition of the reefer containers.
Franklin Galinato, an able seaman from the Philippines, is working on greasing the wires for the lifeboat, just one of the hundreds of routine jobs that contribute to keeping the ship running smoothly.
“Working here is really different, as it’s such a big ship and the first of its kind,” says Galinato. “For example, this lifeboat is a different type from the other ones. And of course, it’s a big ship, so it’s really demanding. It’s nearly 1 kilometre just to go round the deck, so you can imagine how long it would take you.”
It is 5.30am and dark on the bridge. The lights of Gibraltar are ahead, but the famous rock is not yet visible. Madrid Mærsk is about to call her next port, APM Terminals at Tangier Med in Morocco.
“I love sailing, especially when you have days like this, beautiful weather and you see the sea all around – the sea is one of things you can keep looking at and never get tired of,” says Second Officer Thomas Pedersen. “Out here in the Mediterranean, she handles just like any other ship. The difference comes when bringing something this size into port.”
As the sun rises, Captain Larsen and his Chief Officer arrive on the bridge, soon to be joined by pilots from the port. Tug boats flock to the vessel’s sides and help to nudge her towards the berth.
Soon after, Madrid Mærsk is safely berthed and the light-blue cranes of APM Terminals are already taking off the cargo as the mist drifts around the mountains along the shore.
“Very nice approach, Captain,” says the pilot, as he prepares to disembark.