Meet Captain Hanna Odengrund from Norrköping, Sweden. Hanna is a graduate of Kalmar Maritime Academy and is licensed as both a master and pilot for vessels of unlimited tonnage. Captain Hanna has worked on vessels over the course of the past 15 years; having spent much of her career on chemical tankers. As a pilot, her main duties involve navigating and maneuvering ships between the ports of Oxelösund and Norrköping, Sweden.
Our team first connected with Captain Hanna on Instagram, where she educates and inspires others with details of her job. She’s an inspiration to us, here at Women Offshore. Therefore, we jumped at the chance to share her career and some of her memorable experiences on the water, with our readers. Here’s what Captain Odengrund had to say:
Captain, what inspired you to work on the water?
“I know this will sound a bit cheesy, but, I have always been drawn to the water ever since I was a little girl. I aspired to be a marine biologist, a diving instructor, an underwater rugby player… The aquatic career list was long and inspired.
My parents were always supportive of the career choices my brother and I chose to pursue. Consequently, when I found the Kalmar Maritime Academy and told them I wanted to apply, they stood by me 100%. For that, I am very grateful!”
Please, share with us your most memorable experience.
“As a pilot, I think every day on the job is memorable in some way. However, there is one day in particular that I will never forget.
This event occurred in the fall of 2009, shortly after I had just received my pilot’s license. I was at the end of my very first working period, when I boarded a ship in Oxelösund, for pilotage to Kränkan light[house].
The ship and her crew were all Russian, which, is common in our area. Shortly after departure, I saw the captain and second officer starting to look slightly alarmed. At that moment, I realized that I could not feel any more vibrations from the main engine. The intercom rang swiftly thereafter, the captain answered and what followed was a half-screamed conversation in Russian about something I didn’t understand.
I figured that we must have had a ‘black out’ – a loss of engine propulsion. I asked the captain if this was the case, but I only received answers in Russian. I have to add, my knowledge of the Russian language is very close to none at all!
So, I decided to do whatever I could, to make sure it didn’t get any worse. I communicated with the VTS (vessel traffic services) to inform other ships of our situation. I also called tug boats, in case we needed help getting back into port and double-checked the charts for sub-sea cables, should we have needed to drop our anchor.
Ten minutes later, the engine was back up and running again and we continued our passage without any more incidents.
I believe it is really important to learn from your experiences. This one taught me that when you find yourself in a tricky situation, try to plan ahead. I have come to think of it as ‘filling up my tool box’ and getting ready for whatever the situation throws at me.”
What motivates you to continue working on the water if it’s a long-term career for you?
“Working as a pilot, I get to see a lot of different ships and meet people from all over the world. At the same time, I get to go home and see my family every day. So I would say working as a pilot is the perfect mix of working at sea and family life.”
What major challenges have you faced in your career?
“Like all other women at sea, I have experienced gender bias in different forms – I still do, sometimes.
I am only woman on board the ships for a limited time. Therefore, I try to focus on the task at hand. Sometimes, I have to say something and speak up, to make a point and take a stand. But, luckily, that is not very often. Generally, the crews are more used to seeing women at sea these days. Female pilots are also getting more common, even if we are not that many (6 out of a total of 200 here, in Sweden).”
What do you think can be done in your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“Information is key: Knowing which options and opportunities are out there, I think, will increase women’s interest in our industry. Your initiative with WomenOffshore.org, is doing just that; creating a platform where we can learn from each other, and show others what great opportunities there are in our business.”