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Take me along for the ride, captain...

Captains in Emden

“I have to smile every time I take the lane heading toward the port,” says Torben Stadtaus about his morning drive to work in Emden. He and his colleague Dieter Stomberg live for and love their job. The port and shipping is precisely their thing. Both are captains, although they no longer spend their time at sea. They have settled down and cast their anchors at Volkswagen Group Logistics.

Their bridge is on shore; their passengers consist of sheet metal and arrive by the thousands from all directions, to then be distributed from Emden throughout the world: Stomberg and Stadtaus are responsible for ensuring a smooth sea voyage for the Volkswagen Group’s cars. A total of 200 ports are currently under their aegis. They both control the global operating activities from the port in Emden.

They enjoy the fact that their work is extremely diverse. In addition to overseeing ports and ships, they establish quality standards as well. This in an integral part of all contracts with service providers. “There we precisely describe how the vehicles should be handled, stowed and what materials should be used to fasten them,” explains Stadtaus.

Technician with a high seas license

  • A view over the dike
  • Today’s captains
  • A perfect team

“I have sat here at the port with a view over the dike for 15 years,” says Stomberg, describing his logistics tasks. He adds that he cannot imagine working at a more beautiful place. Both of them emphasize that “we are not pale theoreticians.” After all, they are well familiar with the other hands-on, maritime side of this line of work – including the license required to raise the anchors and embark on high-sea voyages.

Thanks to their previous experience, they are well familiar with loading and unloading procedures. Today’s captains must possess flexible, digital expertise, which is a skill he must also exhibit when communicating with the service providers on site. “When a certain loss frequency is reported to us, we may just happen to be underneath a car at that particular moment,” explains the technician Stomberg. “We precisely examine the damages to determine what exactly caused it. Then we offer the best possible solution.”

Stomberg and Stadtaus have led completely different lives and they perfectly complement one another as a team. Each one of them has their own personal area of expertise; however, they must be able to quickly become acquainted with their colleague’s area. Both have an incredibly large network, are familiar with the majority of the players and treat them as equals.

Ahoy, children of the sea!

“I grew up on ships. From the moment I was born, I traveled around like a circus child, at least until school attendance became compulsory,” recalls Stomberg. His parents owned a shipping company in Emden. Today, you still cannot put anything over Stomberg, who worked at HapagLloyd following his career as a seaman, then going on to work as stevedoring inspector for the Emden transportation company, before switching to Volkswagen. Machines, drive systems, general technology for ships – he is passionate about all these topics.

“I grew up on ships. From the moment I was born, I traveled around like a circus child, at least until school attendance became compulsory.”

Dieter Stomberg

Stadtaus, born in the northern German state of Schleswig Holstein, became very close to the sea from an early age. “The sea always fascinated me. That’s why I went straight to the navy.” Afterwards, his work as stevedore in Hamburg allowed him to drive cars onto ships. “I also spent time standing at the ramp,” recalls Stadtaus, who also has a striking anchor on his middle finger. He has been working for Volkswagen for nearly seven years. “Back then, they were looking for a risk professional, graduate engineer, navigator or average commissioner in Braunschweig. “Then I thought – ‘hey, you fit the description for all those positions.’” However, he and his wife only managed to stick through five years without the close proximity to the sea. Since January 2017, he has supported Stomberg and shared his knowledge as a risk engineer in field of transport insurance.

“The sea always fascinated me. That’s why I went straight to the navy.”

Torben Stadtaus

No job like any other

Rationally speaking, sea transport is a job just like any other. “You have to make sure that things are operating,” Stomberg dryly comments. The desire to raise the anchor has still remained with both of them. Ever since Stomberg professionally settled down he owns a boat “so that I can head off to an island whenever I want.” Stadtaus points out that there is little left of the romanticism associated with seafaring. However: “When the sun rises and the moon is still visible and you are entirely surrounded by the ocean – holding a cup of coffee while everyone else is still asleep – you see colors reflected on the ocean that you weren’t even aware existed. That is really great. But that only lasts for 15 minutes – before the charterer comes around, followed by e-mails and then the shipping company...”
Both of them are explaining this situation, while enjoying coffee in their little realm, which is located directly on the dike and allows them to enjoy the fresh sea air at any time.

“When the sun rises and the moon is still visible and you are entirely surrounded by the ocean – holding a cup of coffee while everyone else is still asleep – you see colors reflected on the ocean that you weren’t even aware existed. That is really great.”