Captain Magnus Gottberg, master of the cruise ship SuperStar Virgo, talked to Byron Clayton about his career and the ship he now commands as the vessel crossed the Straits of Malacca.
When did you first go to sea?I first went to sea in 1969 when I was an apprentice aboard the 1948-built general cargo ship Los Angeles, which was part of the Swedish Johnson line. She was one of the first ships to have controllable pitch propellers. I was later assigned to Paraguay, a training ship with 48 apprentices on board. After Johnson line, I started working with the Gotland Company and then the ferry company TT Line. I later served with Viking Line on board Olympia, which is now Princess Anastasia.
When did you first become captain?I have been a ship’s master for over 30 years. My first command was the ro-ro carrier Gute, owned by Gottland Company, which I worked on in 1981.
How did you start with Star Cruises?I was hired by Star Cruises in 1996 as nautical superintendent for newbuilds. Before Star Cruises, I had been involved with the building of Europa for Viking Line in Papenburg, Germany. Star Cruises were looking to build their own new ships at Meyer Werft. I stayed for two years in Papenburg and was involved with the building of SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo. I was captain aboard SuperStar Leo (sister of SuperStar Virgo) from her launch until 2004, when she was transferred to NCL. The ships were cutting edge when they were launched and made a huge impact on the cruise industry. They were the first ships that had an open dining concept (now called ‘Freestyle Cruising’ by NCL) with six extra tariff restaurants in addition to the included venues.
What advances did these ships represent?We were fortunate that the owners had fresh eyes, as they were new to the cruise industry. They were willing to experiment beyond the traditional boundaries and today you won’t find a cruise ship being built without speciality restaurants. They were also the first cruise ships to have an optimal advanced navigation bridge with a pilot/co-pilot system. The ships were specifically designed to make Singapore to Phuket in 24 hours, and their five-bladed fixed pitch propellers ensure the ships can easily reach 24 knots.
How long have you been with SuperStar Virgo?After being captain of the SuperStar Leo, I went to SuperStar Libra (ex-Seaward from NCL) for two years and joined SuperStar Virgo in 2006.
What is the most important role for a captain?To make sure that the ship is as safe as possible and she goes safely from port to port – this is my top priority. With 1,300 crew, the ship’s operation is very complex and everyone is dependent on everyone else. On the bridge you must take into consideration the impact of human factors by looking at the best and safest way to organise ourselves. I must also think about how different cultures interact with one another. During my work, I spend eight weeks on board the ship, followed by eight weeks off.
What do you like most about sailing in Asia Pacific? I love the challenges of the ports and the dense traffic we experience down here. You really have to be on your toes all the time. I also like the hospitality of the people in the Asian region and working with an Asian crew who are loyal and easy to guide.
Being from the Baltic, what do you miss about sailing in the northern seas?I miss ice navigation during a tough winter and the sound of the ship as she is battling through the ice.
Do you prefer enclosed or open bridge wings? I prefer closed bridge wings because all the equipment is easily to hand and it is air-conditioned or heated so you don’t need to face the elements or worry about the weather.