The master of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ popular Black Watch, Captain Ingar Neerland, talks to Peter Newall about his career at sea, whichstarted at the age of 12.
Where did you spend your childhood?I was born in Kristiansund in 1972 and we lived on Smøla, a small island on the west-coast of Norway, which only has just over 2,000 inhabitants.
Do you come from a seafaring family?My grandfather Anders Neerland started a fishing trawler business in 1948 with a small ship, Miloy. In the mid-1950s he bought Ertnan, a 271gt coal-fired trawler, which had been built in Germany in 1907, and in 1964 he added the much larger 149ft Remman (1948/400gt) to the fleet. My father Arne was chief engineer of Remman, which was sold in 1988.
How old were you when you first went to sea?I was 12 when I went on a short positioning voyage on Remman after she was ordered to the fishing grounds off Iceland and Jan Mayen Island. As there was no opportunity for me to disembark, I spent the next three months in the Arctic, fishing capelin. I was seasick for the first three days of the trip, but soon found my sea legs.
With such a challenging start to your sea career, did you see your future as a seafarer?I originally wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. However, that was not to be, and I spent two years in my early 20s as a fisherman on the Smøla-based trawler Nils Holm (1968/310gt). I also went to the Merchant Marine academy at Kristiansund and obtained my mate’s certificate in 1994, during which time I served in the Royal Norwegian Navy as part of the civil defence force.
When did you join the cruise business and what was your first ship?In 1995 I joined Royal Caribbean Cruise Line as a quartermaster on Monarch of the Seas and was soon promoted to second officer on Song of America before being sent to Finland as part of the newbuild team overseeing the construction of Grandeur of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas at the Kværner MASA-Yards, Helsinki.
When did you achieve your first senior rank?In 2000 I became chief officer of Sovereign of the Seas and, five years later, I was promoted to staff captain of Vision of the Seas, becoming captain in 2007. At the time I was living in Canada and we did a mixture of cruises in Europe, the Caribbean and along the west coast of North America and to Alaska.
What is your favourite port and which places would you like to visit?Without doubt, Rio de Janeiro is my favourite port, while I am very much looking forward to taking Black Watch to Australia and New Zealand later this year.
When did you join Fred. Olsen?I joined the company in June 2010. After a period aboard each of the four ships as chief officer, I was given command of Black Watch in October 2010.
What were your most memorable voyages?Fishing mid-winter in the Barents Sea when I was younger and, more recently, in August when Black Watch encountered 50ft-high waves during a force ten gale south of Greenland which lasted 36 hours. I was, of course, used to this kind of weather, but for our passengers it must have been quite a frightening experience.
What do you like most about Black Watch?Being such a relatively small ship, she has a great family atmosphere and is easy to manoeuvre, although, like with any ship, you need to understand her unique characteristics. This year she and I will also be celebrating our 40thbirthdays!