Vlad Valchev, originally from Bulgaria, is one of Ardmore’s most loyal, experienced, and longest serving Chief Engineers. He joined the company in May 2011 and took delivery of Ardmore’s Seavantage and Cherokee. Naturally, we were delighted when he accepted the opportunity to feature in our first in a series of Chief Engineer interviews.
Why did you choose a career in seafaring?
For as long as I can remember, my education was leading towards a career in mathematics, so I suppose becoming a seafarer was a spur of the moment decision. If I had to turn back time, I would still choose the career path I took – the seaman’s life is the life for me.
What can you remember from your first trip as an engineering cadet?
Well for starters, we didn’t have Google or the Internet, which meant I had to carry books on theoretical and practical engineering! I remember being like a magnet, collecting information and taking notes after working several hours in the Engine Room (tablets and smart phones weren’t available then!).
Describe how your career progressed up to Chief Engineer
My motto then and now has been: DO WHAT YOU LIKE, LIKE WHAT YOU DO. If you try to keep yourself focused and improve your knowledge and skills day by day, I think you will get very satisfactory results. I thrive on engaging with every opportunity and working to the best of my ability. I am also always trying to make improvements to my skillset.
How was your first trip as Chief Engineer?
It was more than 10 years ago, but I had confidence in my knowledge and I knew everything would run smoothly. Learning every day and gaining knowledge was key to my confidence.
What has been the highlight of your career?
There may have been a lot of pressure, but my career highlight was taking over a new building from the shipyard. To be responsible for such a valuable item really highlighted both Ardmore and the team’s trust in me, which I will always be thankful for.
What has been your most memorable voyage?
The first, was my most memorable voyage. The voyage was in the Mediterranean, on a small vessel with accommodation for 180 cadets. I learned a lot about a seafarer’s job, but at the same time we had some crazy experiences during our free time!
What is the biggest change you have seen onboard since you first went to sea?
Communication certainly. Early on in my career ships received only a few messages, but today the information exchange is significantly more.
The other change is seafarers’ attitudes; when I started sailing, we couldn’t wait to get to port to relax and go ashore to have fun. Today it’s vice versa, we’re eager to be back at sea!
Apart from family what do you miss the most when you are at sea?
Family will always be missed the most, but I also miss relaxing with my friends at the pub, enjoying a beer with good food, whilst trying to forget the stresses of work.
What is your favourite part of the world to sail in?
Europe definitely, it’s well arranged and the rules are strictly followed. This is simplified compared with other parts of the world. Also, everywhere in Europe feels like home.
What has been your most difficult experience?
I’d been working on an ice class tanker, shortly after departure the vessel struck ice and whilst trying to manoeuvre, the propeller got damaged. At the same time, the steam valve to the engine blew off and the engine room started to flood with icy water. Thanks to the professionalism of the crew we managed to fix everything.
How do you see the future for seafaring engineers?
If I’m comparing to 20 years ago, the engine room was manned all the time and no electronics were involved. Thanks to the advances in technology and digitalisation, I can say that life onboard nowadays is better, but not always easier.
How does sailing with Ardmore Shipping differ from other shipping companies?
I’ve been with Ardmore since 2011. I have grown professionally due to the high standards imposed by both the owners and managers. I am proud to be a part of the Ardmore Shipping team.
Share something interesting about yourself that we mightn’t know.
My Motto: “I never lose; either I win or learn”.
By Susanne Deane, Manager Marine Support
Disclaimer: This article was originally published in issue 15 of the Ardmore Standard. Not to be reproduced without permission from Ardmore Shipping.