Heart of the Harbour

March 2020

On a cool overcast morning in late November, the newly launched MV Federal Montreal passed gracefully through the breakwater and anchored in the Port of Thunder Bay awaiting cargo operations. The gleaming red-hulled vessel owned by Fednav Limited of Montreal could be seen vividly from Hillcrest vantage point, overlooking the expanse of the harbour. Impressive as it was, the Federal Montreal was scheduled to load her first grain cargo – a whopping 21,300 metric tonnes of Canola destined for Portugal.

At the helm of the newly minted vessel was Captain Sikander Mustaqali Kazi, one of the most senior captains and backbone of Fednav’s seafaring fleet. The Anglo-Eastern/Fednav master is most assuredly in a class by himself. Distinguished looking, debonair and mild mannered, the consummate master belies the authority that he so subtlety and expertly represents.

Colourful ceremonies at Fednav ship launches are always a spectacular and festive affair. Delivery of the magnificent Federal Montreal at Oshima Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. in Japan was all of that and then some. The milestone proceedings held in late summer were particularly special, as the massive 34,500 metric tonne deadweight bulk carrier was named after the Canadian city Fednav Limited describes as home and where the pulse of world-wide corporate and ship operations are measured and controlled.

Built to trade in the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and internationally, the Marshall Islands-flagged ship is equipped with the latest environmental protection technology. The ice-class bulk carrier is 200 metres long with a breadth of 23.8 metres and is destined to sail the Seaway system with frequent visits to Thunder Bay for years to come.

On the day of delivery, Fednav representatives, shipyard personnel and local community members were in store for a remarkable commemoration. The vessel was tastefully decorated with various flags that preceded the traditional christening ritual of smashing a bottle of champagne, with honours bestowed to the godmother of the vessel, Ms. Donna Haley, Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of Fednav Limited .

A sensational whistle blowing display, 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 visitors and dignitaries.

After the extraordinary event, guests were welcomed on board by the ship’s crew smartly dressed in their merchant marine uniforms. The following day, Federal Montreal departed Oshima on her maiden voyage to her first port of call, Inchon, Korea. Arriving at the Port of Thunder Bay on November 25th over two and half months later for her very first grain cargo, Bayview had a chance to discuss Capt. Kazi’s amazing career.

W. Hryb: 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 percent 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 British era in India. Some of my uncles were in merchant marine as well served the Royal Navy.

W.Hryb: 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. It 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 Canadian Arctic which very few people might be fortunate enough to afford, 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 same.

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.”

W. Hryb: 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 a 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.”

W. Hryb: 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 sometimes from Duluth.”

W. Hryb: 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. 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. I have to give it back to the community as well.”

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