Full steam ahead

At Christmas, especially, you want to help others, be there for people, and simply do some good. But why not all the year round, really? That’s what some of our colleagues thought as well, which is why in their leisure time they get involved in various volunteering projects. One of them is Carsten Bachmann. He’s been working for Krones since 2008, and is currently Machinery Safety Officer in the CE Int. Governance Department. His voluntary work is relatively unusual: because besides his normal job he’s a stoker on the biggest surviving coal-fired steamship, the icebreaker Stettin in Hamburg.

How do you come to be doing this sort of voluntary work?! Especially when you’re actually living and working in Bavaria?! Well, it’s all very simple! Let me paint the scene: it’s 2014, Carsten’s parents invited him and his brother to a boat trip on the Kiel Canal – not on any old ship, though, but on the icebreaker Stettin. Carsten, as a mechanical engineer, is of course immediately captivated by the technical systems dating from 1933. And ever since that day, he’s been more or less inseparable from the steamship, returning to it repeatedly as a voluntary helper.

Together, the approximately 200 active club members, as stokers, machinists, bridge personnel and deck crew look after the preservation, care, maintenance and operation of the steamship. Early in the morning, Carsten and his fellow-stokers (a team of at least six on every voyage) kick-start the ship’s everyday routine. First of all, they have to resuscitate the preprepared overnight fires (these are also referred to as “munkies”) with fresh hard coal, and clean the entire firing system. About an hour before casting off, the stokers then shovel the embers out of the overnight fires and distribute them on the cleaned grates so as then to ignite the fresh coal there – but their job is still very far from being finished! While the ship is under way, they have to keep an eye on all the operating pressures, as well as the water levels in the two boilers, clean the boilers, and, of course, at regular intervals add more coal and remove burnt ashes from the fire-hole. “Per hour, and depending on the ship’s speed, two of us shovel about a ton of coal into the six furnaces,” Carsten tells me. And that’s just for a normal day in summer! Plus, of course, they also have to handle laying the Stettin up for the winter, together with other care and maintenance of the ship. So it’s definitely a time-consuming, energy-gobbling occupation – but Carsten simply loves it. Thanks to the voluntary helpers, a piece of history is thus being preserved, and rendered experientially accessible. Besides this volunteering work, he was also for a long time a member of the emergency services, and today is still active in the fire brigade. But can so many different volunteering obligations be reconciled with his day job – can this work out? This is Carsten’s reply: “Sure, no problem at all!” Thanks to the flexitime arrangements at Krones, it’s easy for him to organise his trips to Hamburg – and should he be needed by the emergency services or the fire brigade, this can also be arranged with our Human Resources Department without any complications.

“Basically it wasn’t a conscious decision to do some voluntary work, it was more that things just turned out that way. I really enjoy helping others, especially when I’m surrounded by a group of nice people. This is my hobby, so I tend to be rather surprised that I often get thanked by patients or others involved” is how Carsten concludes our interview. I really like this attitude, and I very much hope that he never loses it. Otherwise all I can say is: fair winds and following seas, Carsten!

By the way: if you’d like to experience Carsten and the icebreaker Stettin live, in the summer you can take part in one of the outings as a guest for the day. I’m sure you’ll find the experience worthwhile!