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See inside a 958-foot cargo ship, from the crew's living quarters to the massive engine room

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/23/2021 gkay@businessinsider.com (Grace Kay)
A view of the Maersk Ohio from above. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle A view of the Maersk Ohio from above. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle
  • A merchant mariner captured life at sea on a video tour of a Maersk container ship.
  • The video shows the everyday life of cargo ship crew as they spend holidays and months on end at sea.
  • Second mate Bryan Boyle said workers celebrate the holidays on board through festive meals and community.

A merchant mariner gave a tour of a 958-foot cargo ship in 2019 that showed the intricacies of hulking freighters that haul 90% of the world's goods.

In the video, second mate Bryan Boyle records the vast array of machinery that keeps the ship moving, as well as the crew's and officers' living quarters on the Maersk ship, which was built in 2006.

Replay Video

Though the video was taken in 2019, Boyle told Insider it provides insight into the lives of shipping crew today as hundreds of cargo ships wait to dock in US ports.

The merchant mariner said it can be difficult to be away from family for months on end, especially during the holidays, but crew find ways to celebrate even as they work through Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

"I recall a few unique experiences such as singing and playing music together on Christmas since one of the Able Bodied Seaman onboard was a skillful harmonica player," Boyle told Insider. " Another time we were anchored in Dubai on New Years' Eve surrounded by many ships.  We were counting down to the new year and then many of the ships started to blow their whistles in celebration as fireworks were being launched from shore in front of us."

Entertainment options for the ship's crew of 20 to 25 people are limited on the cargo ships. Boyle said that workers' time off can include a mix of movies and games, as well as gym time. 

The video shows the officers' lounge, which has a pingpong table and TV, as well as the general crew's lounge, which has a poker table. During Thanksgiving, Boyle said he and other officers gathered to watch a football game in the lounge, using a satellite television. 

Take a look at a view of the crew's mess hall below.

Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

In the ship's voyage, it sets out from Norfolk, Virginia, making several stops in the US before heading toward Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

"I've had the opportunity to work on some interesting vessels," Boyle told Insider. "I've gotten to go to places that the average person wouldn't even know about. It's one of the most appealing aspects of the job."

Boyle said that there's a thrill to arrive at new destinations, remembering how he spent over a month in Africa on one trip. But the amount of time that crews get to explore new destinations has dwindled over the years, he said, as ships rush to get in and out of ports as fast as possible and early COVID-19 restrictions set limits to crew excursions.

The video shows Boyle's living quarters, as well as a movie locker that holds hundreds of titles.

Boyle's living quarters on the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle Boyle's living quarters on the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

The video also highlights the mix of old and new technology that helps keep the supply chain moving, pairing engine control rooms that look like they belong on a spaceship with a massive gyrocompass.

The engine control room. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle The engine control room. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

The navigation bridge also provides an unrestricted view of the waters ahead and operates as a space where the captain and officers can man the entire operations of the vessel.

The navigation bridge. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle The navigation bridge. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

The ship has a massive gyrocompass that helps guide its course.

The first seaworthy gyrocompass was produced in 1908. It operates as a type of nonmagnetic compass that uses a fast-spinning disc and the rotation of the Earth to find geographical direction. 

The ship's gyrocompass. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle The ship's gyrocompass. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

The video shows the engine room and the combustion engine that helps power an equally giant propeller.

The engine. Bryan Boyle © Bryan Boyle The engine. Bryan Boyle

Boyle takes viewers on a tour of the exterior of the ship as well, labeling individual parts of the ship and even touring the ship's lifeboat.

A lifeboat on the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle A lifeboat on the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

The video ends by showing how the ship pulls up to a dock in Germany.

Cranes discharge containers from the ship. More cranes gradually reload fresh containers before the Maersk Ohio  heads back to Norfolk.

A crane takes containers off the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle © Courtesy of Bryan Boyle A crane takes containers off the ship. Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

Watch Boyle's full video on YouTube.

Do you work at sea? Reach out to the reporter from a non-work email at gkay@insider.com

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