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Frequently Asked Questions

Sailing on a freighter is entirely different to that of travelling on a passenger ship. The latter is designed, and the surrounding infrastructure so geared, to cater for passengers. A cargo ship’s prime purpose is for the movement of freight. The following will be help to the first time freighter passenger to appreciate what to expect.
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It is important to note that the following is only a guide. The conditions can vary between shipping lines, ships within a particular line, and destinations. It is the passenger’s responsibility to ensure that they are fully conversant with the conditions prevailing at the time of the booking.

Advance Bookings
Agent
Age restrictions
Baggage allowance
Binoculars
Communications
Currency
Deck Access
Deviation Insurance
Docks
Dress Code
Electrical appliances
Forward planning
Gang way
Gymnasium
Insurance
Language
Laundry
Lifts
Meals
Medical Certificates
Mobile Phones
Pets
Purchases
Onward Travel
Radio
Reading Material/Videos
Security
Segments
Smoking
Swimming Pools
Terms & Conditions (Contractual)
Tipping
Vaccinations & Inoculations
Vehicles
Visas
Visitors

 

Advance Bookings

The ships on liner voyages (and usually part of a conference network) are engaged on a fixed trading schedule. These services offer a degree certainty and hence forward planning. Ships involved in the tramping trades are subject to their routes being altered at short notice and therefore passengers must be flexible in their travel arrangements.

Agent

Ships have a local agent in each port. The agent is the link between the ship and shore side authorities to ensure the smooth running of affairs whilst it is in port. He is the shipping lines local representative and liaises directly with the master.  

Age restrictions

All shipping lines place an upper age limit for the acceptance of passengers. It can vary from 70 to 80 years of age. There are several exceptions. Also restrictions apply for the carriage of young children. It is important to confirm at the time of the travel enquiry as to the individual company’s age policy.

Baggage allowance

There is no predefined limit. The rule of thumb is “what can be manageably be carried up the gangway”. It should be borne in mind that if the vacation involves the use of other forms of transport (e.g. airlines) an allowance may imposed by those carriers.

Binoculars

They very important accessory to enhance the enjoyment of the voyage. They are not supplied on board so do not forget to take them.

Communications

At the time of departure a wise consideration would be that of providing your relatives and friends with details of how you can be contacted whilst away. This is especially important in the case of an emergency. Supply them with the name of the ship, full particulars of the booking agent, the shipping line and port agents (a list of which can be obtained when the sailing is confirmed), itinerary and dates.

Most ships today have satellite communication systems. The days of the old ship to shore short wave radios have disappeared along with the radio officer. But the use of such facilities is restricted due to the expense. Companies are not eager to release details of a ships email address, as excessive transmissions can be very costly. Enquire with the master when on board as to the availability and the cost of sending emails. The cost is not included in the fare and may be a facility that is not available to the passengers.

Currency

The payment for on board for purchases is usually in Euros or US Dollars. It can vary especially if the ship is engaged short coastal voyages (e.g. Northern Europe). The accepted form of payment is either by traveller’s cheques or cash. Credit cards, charge cards, bankcards and personal cheques are not accepted. Again confirm at the time of booking.

Deck Access

The passenger is usually free to walk around the open deck. It is advisable to notify the officer of the watch as a safety precaution. Also great care must be exercised whilst loading and discharging of cargo is taking place. Passengers, at the discretion of the master, have unlimited access to the navigating bridge. Passengers must keep out of the way when the ship is being manoeuvred in close quarters. Access to the Engine room and other machinery spaces is by invitation only. Access to the crew’s quarters is not encouraged and entry to the officer’s bar is by invitation.

Deviation Insurance

Freighters do not carry a doctor and therefore in the case of an extreme medical emergency it may be necessary for the ship to alter coarse  to seek medical assistance. This will involve the shipping line in added expense. The ship owner insures against this possibility and may require the passenger to pay an additional charge as part of the passage fare.

Docks

Details of the port of departure will be supplied at the time the tickets are issued. Confirmation of the actual berth will be supplied 48 hours prior to embarkation.
Docks are working areas and are very dangerous to the uninitiated. When walking around the docks try and wear bright clothing and at all times keep a very alert look out. The authority or local seaman’s mission may provide a mini bus services. If in doubt ask a member of the crew.
Before going ashore always obtain the full details of the berth number and the name of the district. Some ports cover a very large area.

Dress Code

Informal dress is the order of the day. Clothing should be suitable for the climate of the regions to be visited.

Electrical appliances

Ships electrical current is either 110 or 220/240 volts (DC or AC). A multi adaptor pin plug should be carried especially if there is a need to recharge appliances such as laptop computers, mobile phones etc.

Forward planning

There is no on board pursers department to pre arrange shore excursions. Passengers would be well advised to plan their shore trips before departure. Advice and tips can be obtained from such places as libraries, travel sections associated to embassies etc. Time in port may be limited and therefore the well-prepared traveller will maximise time by being organized in advance.

Gang way

Unlike passenger ships where passenger’s board by a purpose built level walk way the boarding onto a cargo vessel is by the ships gangway. They are usually steep steel stairways with curved treads. Care must be taken when using the gangway. When embarking or disembarking it is advisable to obtain assistance of a crewmember to help carry luggage on and off the ship.

Gymnasium

Some ships have a small exercise room with associated equipment installed.

Insurance

All shipping lines insist as a condition of travel that the passenger has adequate travel insurance. Some lines further insist that the passenger has “deviation insurance” cover. The deviation cover is to reimburse the ship owner and or charterer for any financial loss incurred as a result of the ship having to alter its coarse or take action from its planned voyage arising as a consequence of the passenger (e.g. a medical emergency).

Language

English is the international language at sea with all officers and crew having a good grasp of its use. However it should be noted that when dinning with the officer's they will normally converse with one another in their natural language, which could be difficult if the passenger is not fluent in it.

Laundry

Self-service laundry and ironing facilities are available.

Lifts

Some ships have lifts. But for safety purposes they are not available for use in heavy weather. Therefore passengers must be prepared and able to use the staircase, which with ships with a high superstructure may prove to be arduous.  

Meals

All meals are usually taken in the offices dinning saloon. Catering for special diets may not be available and therefore it is important to check when booking. Some ships provide a late night snack facility. Alcoholic beverages are available but are not included in the passage fare.

Medical Certificates

All passengers over the age of 50 are required to provide a certificate in the proscribed form duly signed by a qualified medical practitioner certifying that the passenger” is fit to travel on a cargo ship”. There is usually a time limit of 3 months between the issuing of the certificate and the expected date of embarkation.

Mobile Phones

Such devices could be useful especially if the ship needs urgently to contact a passenger who is ashore. Passengers need to check with their mobile phone provider before departure as to international requirements etc. It must remember that there are differing incompatible mobile operating systems.

Pets

Domestic animals are not carried.

Purchases

Usually small quantities of personal essentials are available for purchase on board. They include such items as toothpaste, deodorant etc. Also tobacco products can be purchased but the brand selection may not be extensive. Other items may be available such as tee shirts, sun hats etc but again the range will limited and vary from ship to ship.

Onward Travel

Cargo ships are always prone to a change in their schedules. It is the passenger’s responsibility to ensure that there is the required flexibility in their travel arrangements to cater for any change to the schedule. The shipping line will not accept liability for delays, alterations etc.

Radio

Most cabins now have installed as a fixture a small music centre incorporating a radio. Therefore there is no need to pack one in the luggage.

Reading Material/Videos 

There usually is a reasonably stocked library on board for the use of the crew and passengers. Passengers have the use of a video and music system in their cabin. Those who enjoy music should pack their favourite cd’s.

Security

With the heightened awareness for security it is very difficult for non-essential persons to gain entry to the dock area and onto the ships. Always carry identification.  Leave passes are not normally issued. In certain ports shore side guards are employed to prevent unauthorized access to the ship. In port always lock the cabin door.

Segments

Most lines allow for passengers choose between completing a full voyage or a part there of. The option is dependant upon bookings, as obviously preference will be given to those wishing to complete a full passage. Some people like to break a cruise by disembarking at a port to await passage on a following ship.

Smoking

Smoking is allowed in most areas of the accommodation section. Fire is the greatest hazard at sea and therefore smokers must be very careful where they extinguish their cigarettes.

Swimming Pools

Some ships have a pool.

Terms & Conditions (Contractual)

The terms and conditions of carriage are those of the shipping line. No other terms and conditions apply. The passenger by accepting the offer of carriage as issued by the shipping line and or their agents forthwith accepts and agrees to the shipping lines terms and conditions of carriage. By accepting the offer of carriage it is implied that the passenger has read understood and agreed to the shipping lines terms and conditions of carriage. The purchaser of the ticket implies unconditional acceptance by the passenger of the shipping lines terms and conditions of carriage. The carrier reserves the right to revise upwards the price of passage prior to departure. Any such price revision shall take effect as a valid amendment to the passage contract and any such increase in price shall be payable by the passenger.

Tipping

There is no set guideline. It is up to the individual passengers to make up their own mind. All the crew have specific duties on board and are paid accordingly. No crewmember is reliant upon tips alone to form the basis of their remuneration. As guide, only the cabin steward and dinning room steward should be considered and only then if the service provided is above normal expectations.

Vaccinations & Inoculations

The requirements will vary dependant on the countries to be visited. The shipping line will specify at the time of booking the actual vaccinations required. Further advice should also be sought from your doctor.

Vehicles

The carriage of passenger cars is dependant on the type of ship, the ports to be visited etc. The availability of this service should be determined at the time of the initial passage enquiry. If allowed the shipping of vehicles is subject to same terms and conditions as general cargo with the cost being based on normal freight rates. The carriage of the vehicle does not form part of the terms & conditions, and tariff, of the passenger contract.

Visas

It is the passenger’s responsibility to ensure that all required visas have been obtained prior to embarkation.

Visitors

Depending upon security requirements a small numbers of visitors may be able to be present at embarkation or disembarkation. Confirmation as to visitor’s access should be sought from the port agents 48 hours before departure. Visitors are not permitted to remain on board for meals.

 

07/04                                                                                                                                                                                 E&OE

 

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