Operating a ship in Antarctica is similar to leading a “special forces operation in the military,” said Apostolos Kaknis, captain aboard the Ocean Explorer for Vantage Travel.
Tthe best way to deal with it is to “leave talented people to do their job.”
“I try to avoid micromanagement. To me, it’s better to leave people to do their job as they know,” he said.
Kaknis has been at the helm of the Ocean Explorer since the ship was delivered from a Chinese shipyard in 2021.
On charter to Vantage from SunStone, Kaknis said building in China was a successful accomplishment.
The ships give smaller operators like Vantage a chance to enter the expedition cruise business, he added.
“It is a very nice ship, easy to handle. It’s also compact but, at the same time, offers guests standards and spaces that they cannot find even on the bigger vessels.”
The 8,000-ton ship generally has a quiet, cozy and relaxing atmosphere, which is what Vantage’s guests want, Kaknis continued.
“I can say it’s a user-friendly and a passenger-friendly vessel,” he added.
Working for CMI, who manages the Ocean Explorer, Kaknis joined the cruise industry in 2015, making his way from deck officer to Captain.
The ship also has a zero-speed stabilizer system, which can keep the Ocean Explorer steady while stopped.
“Especially in Antarctica, when we are at anchor, the stabilizers can keep the vessel stable which is very important during zodiac operations. It’s very effective,” Kaknis said.
The technology uses a different mode on the software of the same open-water stabilizers, he explained, and does not require additional equipment.
With Vantage now expanding its operations in Antarctica and other remote areas, Kaknis also highlighted the importance of safety and proper planning while sailing in these areas.
Sailing in remote parts of the world means that the lives and safety of everyone onboard are at a higher risk level, he noted, as there are no hospitals in reach, for instance.
Sailing far away from the comforts of land, however, is always a challenge, Kaknis said, with special arrangements needing to be made in case of an emergency, an issue or an accident.
Dealing with people is also a challenging task.
“The seamen considers the human being as the most dangerous cargo. We need to take care of people and their needs,” he explained.
With Vantage’s personal approach, the challenge also becomes more personal, he said.
“Here we have just over 100 guests but they will need extreme care,” he added.
In Antarctica, with more days at sea, it’s also necessary to calculate fuel and waste management accordingly, he said.
“There are many things that we need to take into consideration, we need to be careful and follow the regulations,” Kaknis added.
After offering four expeditions in Antarctica during the 2022-2023 season, the Ocean Explorer is set to spend three months in the region in 2023-2024, sailing a total of nine expeditions.
Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Spring 2023