Container ship traveller

Meet Julia Wissel, a senior consultant who travelled on a container ship to Russia

Read about Julia's journey

From Germany to Russia

A lot of my friends asked why I decided to travel from Germany to Russia on a container ship. I actually got inspired by an EY project working on de-risking and downsizing a ship finance loan book. After studying the documents, I realized I had no idea what was going on in the shipping industry and I wanted to understand this unknown world. And it’s a big industry – around 40,000 merchant ships transport about 90% of the world's goods. I googled 'how to join a container ship as a passenger' and spontaneously booked a cabin. One and a half weeks later, the journey started!

Life at sea

Two weeks at sea, five ports, 18 men on board (consisting of Romanians, Ukrainians, Russians and mainly Filipinos), the title of the youngest woman ever on board and thousands of new impressions. And for the first time I was scared about the unknown. But you need to trust in yourself as it may turn out to be amazing and surprise you. “So, what’s it like to be on a container ship?”. Everyone works all day and there’s no entertainment program like on a cruise ship. The crew consisted of fitters, oilers, wipers, able-bodied seamen, ordinary seamen and ship mechanics. Scrubbing, grinding and painting were daily tasks and it showed in the cleanliness of the ship. Even in the engine room you could have eaten off the floor. One of the most important roles for me was to cook, who was lovingly called 'Cooki'. In the kitchen you immediately got the sense of a large family. The boys jumped around in the kitchen and ate the food right out of the pot, and Cooki laughed and had a tough time chasing all the hungry mouths out of the kitchen. Cooki often asked me what I would like to eat. More for fun, I answered sushi. “No problem!” was his answer. So, I had a day cooking with Cooki and got an exclusive sushi class.

“An almost nightly occurrence I did not expect was karaoke. We sang and danced under self-made disco lights.”

Julia Wissel, senior consultant, Advisory

Karaoke queen

An almost nightly occurrence I did not expect was karaoke. We sang all the classics and danced under self-made disco lights. It obviously didn’t matter if you could sing, but the crew were very interested in hearing me sing and kept asking who my favourite artist was. I chose the Backstreet Boys – so, from then on, I had the pleasure of singing a Backstreet Boys song every evening. Over time, I came to really get to know the crew and had some deep conversations about love, longing and sadness. I always got emotional, especially when I realized that, in the last 10 years, some of the guys had spent eight years on the ship and only two at home with their families.

New discoveries

During my adventure, I not only discovered a ship and its inhabitants, but I also I became familiar with a completely new industry. It’s not just about the shipowners and their crews, it’s also about the ports, pilots, steerers, insurers and charterers. It is quite simply a world of its own. In addition, I now know how to handle a compass, can prepare sushi, discovered an illness called seasickness and I am definitely prepared for the next karaoke evening in Frankfurt.

Being out at sea is quite simply a world of its own.

Julia Wissel, senior consultant, Advisory