My name is Antoine THELOT, I’m French. I’ve been a captain at CMA CGM for a bit more than three years, onboard the CMA CGM Fort St Pierre.
I graduated from the ENSM (National Maritime School) in 2001, and sailed for three years before returning to the ENSM to get a superior degree in 2005. I joined CMA CGM in 2007 as a second Captain. CMA CGM’s shorter rotations and the Group’s exponential growth convinced me to leave the international tramping.
I’m currently sailing onboard the CMA CGM Fort St Pierre, a 2,200 TEUs ship initially built for the NEFWI line between France to the French Antilles. This ship is now deployed on the ECS line, between Central America and Northern Europe, with a 42 day-rotation.
Coming from a completely different working environment, I questioned my change of career for a long time, but at 42 years old, I still sail and I feel proud and happy to do what I call a passion-job.
After a year sailing between the Antilles and France, in 2008 I was offered the opportunity to “put down my bags” and work in an office, in Fort de France, as an operational manager for CMA CGM. It was a wonderful experience which lasted three years, where I discovered a world which is totally unknown for most seafarers; one located on the other side of the docks. CMA CGM Martinique is a small office, so I had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different tasks from ship-planning to logistics, and loading XXL or fresh cargo. As I only had a seafarer’s academic background, the company offered me the opportunity to study for a masters in international maritime management, which I accepted right away, allowing me to take a fascinating two years course.
In 2011, at the CMA CGM Tower in Marseille, I worked for four months building the Fleet navigation center. Since January 2012, I’ve returned to the ships, and have since been promoted to captain. My next sailing is on October 25th, departing Le Havre for Jamaica, and I’m already enjoying being back onboard. It’s always enormously satisfying to disembark after safely bring the ship, the cargo and the entire crew to a destination.
There are two different types of day onboard; you’re either in the middle of the sea or calling at a port. The first, as a captain, looks like any day in an office, with a lot of reports, overseeing pay day at the end of the month, ordering food provisions for 30 people over 7 weeks, preparing paperwork for the different port calls, preparing the route, checking the weather forecast, updating the company instructions and processes, and so on. It’s much harder to do this work when the ship is rolling or is pitching because of the weather conditions.
When calling at a port, it is a very different experience, as we are often only operating the vessel from the wheelhouse. These are very intense moments, and personally, these are what I prefer when I’m onboard.
I realised that this job, which is barely known to those who have never been at sea, doesn’t require any particular skill, except for rigour, perseverance, and a zest of curiosity. I personally have found deep satisfaction and a balance in practicing it.