Two-week cruise becomes learning experience for Coast Guard vessel inspector

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene explains the engineering system aboard the passenger vessel Island Princess to Petty Officer 2nd Class Kate Brinkley in Whittier, Alaska, Aug. 26, 2013. Greene spent two weeks traveling aboard the cruise ship and learning about its operations as part of a ship rider program intended to educate Coast Guard vessel inspectors.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.


A two-week journey along Alaska’s coast aboard a cruise ship might sound like a dream vacation to some, but it’s just another day at the office for a Coast Guard vessel inspector.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene, a vessel inspector from the Sector Anchorage port state control office, spent two weeks in August aboard the passenger vessel Island Princess visiting some of Alaska’s most scenic port cities, but it wasn’t to relax. As part of a cruise ship rider program intended to give Coast Guard vessel inspectors an insight into cruise ship operations, Greene worked alongside the Island Princess’ crew and saw a side of the ship few passengers ever have the opportunity to see.

“My inner child was pretty excited to see all the work that takes place behind all the doors marked authorized personnel only,” said Greene. “I didn’t get to steer the ship, but I stood watch on the bridge, learned the vessel’s systems and spent a lot of time getting to know the crew. This experience is incredibly valuable to a vessel inspector because it gives you a better understanding of the ship’s operations instead of having to rely on only what you see during the few hours you spend conducting an inspection.”

Greene was given a checklist of objectives to complete during his time aboard the Island Princess that took him to each of the various departments aboard the vessel. This included working with the navigation and engineering teams, but also extended to learning the duties of the hotel staff, which handles the ship’s business concerning passenger lodging, luggage and meals.

“The amount of work and level of detail that goes into running the ship’s operations is impressive,” Greene said. “On a turnaround day, the crew has eight hours to embark and disembark up to 2,000 passengers, offload and bring on up to 4,000 pieces of luggage and store enough food to sustain everyone aboard. That’s a lot of work to add onto the task of making sure the ship’s systems are functioning correctly and seeing that the vessel is safe to get underway.”

Completing his checklist was only half of Greene’s challenge while aboard the vessel. He also wanted to build a relationship with the crew.

“I felt there was some initial hesitation from the crew to work with me,” recalled Greene. “Many of the crewmembers are from foreign countries and they only see the Coast Guard when we’re around to conduct an inspection so they weren’t sure of what to make of me being aboard for so long. I just tried to be as friendly as possible and let the crew know that this was their opportunity to teach me about what they do.”

Greene’s personable demeanor and show of respect paid off, and he was highly regarded by the crew by the end of his trip.

“The staff captain told me he’d never seen a crew warm up to a Coast Guard official so quickly,” Greene said. “Between the knowledge I gained and the contacts I made, it was definitely an opportunity I’d recommend to other Coast Guard members working in the field of marine inspections.”


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