At the front line with Annabel Teege, AAL Shipping
No two days are the same is something that is being said time and time again about each segment of the shipping industry, especially for project cargo transport where no unit is ever the same. Annabel Teege, voyage operator at AAL Shipping agrees to that with no day being the same in her job as well.
Teege is the one responsible for the execution of safe, compliant and efficient voyages of several vessels within AAL’s operating fleet of owned and chartered-in-vessels. Out of the company’s Hamburg office, Teege oversees vessels operating regularly between Europe, Middle East, India, and Asia carrying high-value multipurpose cargoes for customers around the world, comprising heavy lift over-dimensional industrial components, breakbulk and bulk commodities.
Being on the front line
As Teege said, no two days are ever the same in this dynamic working environment, and she is on the front line of managing and mitigating risk on a cargo vessel allows one to really see how their work and daily contribution makes a difference.
“As voyage operators we are encouraged to proactively challenge and be courageous when dealing with suppliers and stakeholders, to eliminate risk and to ensure safe and commercially viable sailings,” Teege said.
Co-ordinating the day-to-day operational activities of these ships involves a lot of different and disparate processes and responsibilities. “I ensure the vessel’s compliance with agreed charter party terms and organise invoicing around each sailing as well as laytime calculations – to name but a few. There is daily communication online, offline, and in person with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders and my team acts as a point of contact for masters and owners,” she said.
Being on the front line has also allowed Teege to see how the technology progressed, and she is happy that more and more women are entering the industry.
Piecing the voyage puzzle together
“As we cover vessels within the Persian Gulf and Asia, we often receive a lot of updated voyage information overnight. Therefore, a normal workday kicks-off with checking all incoming messages. In case of major developments or urgent scenarios, we sometimes receive calls and DMs during the night and early morning, although this does not happen too often,” Teege said.
Addressing overnight messages normally involves bringing all parties up to speed with latest vessel updates, including how port operations might have progressed and how vessels sailing between ports are performing in terms of schedule integrity, speed, fuel consumption, and other related voyage instructions. Each voyage operator within the team handles two to three vessels.
“Before each port call, we activate our local agents on the ground to ensure they are aware of the terms we fixed for each cargo and how each cargo needs to be handled during loading and discharging. This also involves dealing and negotiating with local port authorities and the appointment of ground crews,” said Teege, adding that a voyage operator is also in regular contact with AAL’s in-house transport engineering team, in order to plan the stowage, lifting and lashing plans created for each cargo fixture and its wider loading and discharge operations – which can be very complex, when dealing with multi-million-dollar heavy lift components.
“As part of this planning process, we also source and arrange for welding/cutting/grinding of the stoppers / plates fixed on deck in order to stabilise the cargo during the voyage.
Things to consider for aspiring voyage operators
“It does get stressful at times, but it is great to have a different workday with new challenges every day,” Teege said.
She adds that for anyone who might consider becoming a voyage operator, she recommends having strong written and interpersonal communication skills and attention to detail, with the ability to work under pressure – both autonomously as well as being a real team player. “You should be confident enough to positively challenge others and make fast, informed decisions with a passion for spotting opportunities for change,” she said.
The ability to communicate on different levels is imperative and whilst you prioritise the interests of the shipowners, you also need to maintain transparent and trustworthy relationships with your customers, suppliers, logistics partners and seafaring crew in order to maintain the integrity of each operation and build strong business relationships going forward.