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A passion for inland shipping

10 APRIL 2024 | #CREW

It is the summer of 2012. Rotterdam is the setting for the energetic ‘Wereldhavendagen’. On and around the water, it is an organised chaos. 15-year-old John van Wageningen watches the spectacle with wide eyes and walks the quays with determination. His boyhood dream is to sail. Working on a big barge with lots of power. At the Parkkade, he sees the motor tanker Mts Amulet. He does not hesitate for a moment and gets on board.

Here, he was welcomed with open arms by business partners Ton van der Molen and Igor Jansen. Shortly before, Mts Amulet was awarded ‘Ship of the Year’ at the Maritime Awards Gala. With the tanker, the young entrepreneurs have launched a particularly economical and environmentally friendly barge, according to the jury.

‘Wereldhavendagen’ as a springboard
John takes us back to 2012: “The ‘Wereldhavendagen’ is and remains a great event. I had also been there with my parents before 2012 and immediately fell in love with all those vessels. When I stepped on board, I instantly struck up a conversation with Ton. We soon agreed that I could come for an internship sometime. A few months later, I joined him on board during a holiday. I was directly sold. What a beautiful profession.”

“AMS Barging really gave me the opportunity to follow my dream. I learnt so much in a few years.”

Apprenticeship programme
John opts for maritime education: “I first took a VMBO course at the Scheepvaart- en Transportcollege (STC) and then obtained ‘Captain Manager Binnenvaart’. During my apprenticeships, I really started at the bottom of the ladder. That meant deck work during the day and proceeding with learning in the evenings.”

john van wageningen, mts amulet, schipper

Climbing up the ladder quickly
“I went through all ranks within a few years. Started as deckhand, then student sailor and then got my helmsman papers. By the time I was 20 years old, I had my full sailing license. I then sailed on the Copenhagen, another barge within the AMS fleet. At the age of 22, I went back to the Amulet, where I become first skipper. At AMS Barging, you can develop quickly. If you are motivated, they will do anything for you. What could be better than barging independently at a young age?, John says enthusiastically.

Versatile and international profession
Mts Amulet is a bunker barge. It is used to supply marine vessels with fuel. John explains: “In inland shipping, you really work as a team and carry out different tasks. In maritime shipping, you have your own role with defined activities. Bunkering is really fun working and tailor-made every time. Both in terms of barges and people. It is specifically the contact with seafarers of different nationalities that makes the work exciting.”

Working within a close-knit team
“On board, there is a good atmosphere among the crew. When we are moored, we watch a movie together and catch up. Together we have experienced so much. Actually, we all share the passion for barges and the shipping world. As a crew, you have to be able to blindly trust each other. Safety is paramount and we keep each other active. At AMS, we are always looking at how we can improve things. Together, we try to deliver the best bunker product in the market.”

Always in motion
For John, it’s all about movement: “In our business, we are always on the move. Loading at spot A and bunkering at spot B. That dynamic is part of the shipping world. It goes on 24/7. On board, we always say ‘don’t chitchat but just keep going’. The great thing about working in inland shipping is that you have a lot of free time. It’s 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. Even in my spare time, I can regularly be found on the water. When I sail along the Parkkade, I often think back to how it all started during the ‘Wereldhavendagen’. The love for the water runs deep”, John concludes.

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