By William Hryb

One of the most senior masters in the Anglo-Eastern/Fednav fleet, Capt. Sikander Mustaqali Kazi is most assuredly one of a kind. Distinguished looking, debonair and mild mannered, the consummate master of Federal Montreal belies the authority that he so subtly and expertly represents.

Colourful ceremonies at Fednav ship launches are always a spectacular and festive affair. Launching of the magnificent Federal Montreal at Oshima Shipyard in Japan was all of that and then some. The milestone proceedings that took place August 29th 2019 were particularly special as the massive 34,500 dwt bulk carrier was named after the Canadian city Fednav Limited describes as home and where the pulse of its world-wide corporate and ship operations is measured and controlled.

Built to trade in the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel is equipped with the latest environmental protection technology. The ice-class bulk carrier measures 200 metres long with a breadth of 23.8 metres, and is destined to sail the Seaway system for years to come. With a fleet close to 85 bulk carriers trading around the world, 64 of these ships are owned by Fednav.

Capt. Kazi, Chief Engineer Viresh Kumar and 2nd Engineer Abhay Rana arrived at Oshima Shipyard three weeks earlier for mandatory sea trials. During this vital period all systems, including the ship’s main engines, machinery and navigation equipment were tested and witnessed by ship’s classification and owner’s representatives. Oshima Shipyard was established in 1972, and is located on Oshima Island near the entrance to Sasebo Bay.

Intensive sea trials took about three days to complete before Federal Montreal returned to the yard where the vessel awaited delivery formalities. After the sea trials, Capt. Kazi and his two engineers remained at the shipyard to supervise, get familiar with the new ship and observe demonstrations and testing of equipment on board. The rest of the crew joined the vessel four days prior to delivery.

On the day of delivery, attended by Fednav representatives, shipyard personnel and local community members were in store for a convivial commemoration. The vessel was tastefully decorated with various flags that preceded the traditional christening ritual of smashing a bottle of champagne, with honours given to the godmother of the vessel, Ms. Donna Haley. Not long after, a sensational whistle blowing ceremony, triggered remotely by Capt. Kazi at the dais, was followed by a spectacular nine-gun salute by shipyard personnel. Later, a local drum band consisting of children supported by their teachers performed to the delight of all visitors.

Soon after the ceremony, the guests were welcomed on board by the ship’s crew smartly dressed in merchant marine uniforms. Federal Montreal departed Oshima on her maiden voyage to her first port of call, Inchon, South Korea, later that day. Arriving at the Port of Thunder Bay on November 25th over two and half months later for her first grain cargo, Canadian Sailings  had a chance to discuss Capt. Kazi’s amazing career.

C.S.:  You have had a long career … why did you decide to become a ‘seafarer’ and as a young man who influenced you in that direction?

Capt. Kazi: “I was born in a village on the western coast of India, where 60-70 per cent of the men went to sea. In other words, it was a seafaring community. As a child I used to hear about their stories and adventures, and I was fascinated to join the merchant marine. I come from a seafaring family. My grandfather served the Royal Navy for a long time during the British era in India. Some of my uncles were in the merchant marine, as well served in the Royal Navy.

C.S:  What advice would you give to a young man or woman who is contemplating a maritime career?

Capt. Kazi: “A career at sea is adventurous and challenging. You experience new challenges all the time. It also gives one an opportunity to visit places and get to know the different cultures of the world which any other career may not. Of special mention is to explore pristine places like the Canadian Arctic which very few people might be fortunate enough to visit, where I could go fossil hunting.  As a matter of fact – I have an invaluable collection of trilobites (fossils) that I picked up myself at Little Cornwallis Island.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to ice navigate in the Arctic, the Baltic Sea and above all, transit the St Lawrence Seaway where the ships are lifted about 601 feet above sea level from the Atlantic Ocean. Simply put, after sailing for so many years, I can say that no one trip was the same. There were different challenges every time.

One has to have passion for this job to do justice to it and enjoy it to the fullest extent.  Also, one very good feature about this job is, one gets longer vacations/time off to spend quality time with his/her family.”

C.S.:  As a ship’s master, you have many responsibilities… what gives you the most satisfaction about being a ship’s captain.  On the other hand, what do you dislike about your position, if any?

Capt. Kazi: “As the master of a vessel, one has responsibilities towards multiple stakeholders, such as the ship’s owner, regulatory authorities, the commercial interests of various parties, and environmental responsibilities. There is a stringent worldwide regime to regulate/monitor ship’s performance such as ISM, port state authorities, flag state authorities, and the vessel is required to stay within the framework of these regulatory requirements – this takes most of my time.

Also, safe navigation from port to port, and to deliver the cargoes safely is an essential and very important responsibility. It is challenging to keep abreast of changing regulatory requirements of the different countries and ports worldwide, despite the professional assistance that we receive from our port agents.

What gives me most satisfaction as a ship’s captain is sailing the ship safely from port to port and delivering cargo safely to its destination without adverse impacts on our environment. We also take pride in maintaining the morale of the crew high, considering they are away from home for long periods of time.”

C.S.:  Are you the most senior captain in the Anglo Eastern / Fednav fleet-?

Capt. Kazi: “Yes, I am one of the most senior captains of the Anglo-Eastern/ Fednav fleet. I first came to the Great Lakes/Thunder Bay in 1987. I have been sailing on board Fednav vessels since 1991, carrying cargoes to Great Lakes ports and hauling grain out of the Lakes mostly from Thunder Bay and sometime from Duluth.”

C.S.:  As you know, we are not getting any younger … have you taken into consideration any plans for retirement ( I call it transitioning) and what will that look like for the future ?

Capt. Kazi:  “Indeed, I am not getting any younger. It has been a very long rewarding career and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  It is about time I consider hanging up my seagoing boots. In the very near future you will hear about my retirement plans. Sailing has been my passion and I find it hard to give it up. I am contemplating taking up a part time assignment where I can share my experience with the young sailing fraternity and mentoring them. Besides that I am seriously thinking of contributing some of my time to community service.”