Up Close … with Captain Lenny Durup, first Seychellois to take command of a Seychelles tanker-‘A challenging career but there’s no going back’


Lenny on one of the Seychelles tankers when he was on leave in SeychellesBut for Lenny Durup, pirates are the last thing on his mind when he is at sea.
“Once I’m on duty my focus is on my responsibilities as captain and master mariner.”

“Plus on our trips in international waters we have never encountered pirates as we trade mostly in Europe, North and South America, Canada and the west coast of Africa,” the 34-year-old told me during our meeting.

Lenny is a typical Taurean; born on May 1, he shows all the characteristics of his star sign.
He is proud to be in a command of local tanker Seychelles Patriot and shares with me his journey to achieve a lifetime goal.

He grew up on La Digue, the son of well known seafarer and businessman on the island, Jeffrey Durup.

His father is the owner of two cargo vessels – Kapris Letan and La Providence. This is exactly where Lenny’s interests in maritime blossomed.

“I accompanied dad on his trips to Mahé and other islands when I was a kid, this was mostly on holidays, but there were times when I skipped schools for that.”

Waking up at 4am to catch the boat, a four-hour trip to the main island seemed to be a long voyage for a boy, but for him it was different, it was fun.

During those days there was no fast ferries like Cat Cocos; apart from his dad’s vessels, there was the famous La Belle Edma. These schooners carried both passengers and cargos from La Digue to the main island and back every single working day.

Growing up in these days could have also helped to influence Lenny. But this was not the only force at play, his dad wanted him to take maritime studies.

“My father has played a great role in my decisions to take up maritime studies, he has encouraged me all along.”

After completing his primary and secondary education in Seychelles, his parents were willing to support him financially to take up a course at the Singapore Maritime Academy.

All expenses paid by them, Lenny said he is still grateful for their unconditional support.

His course was entitled ‘Diploma in maritime studies and master mariner’ which along with theory and practical at sea would eventually give him his captain licence and that of Master Mariner, a job with great responsibilities.

But thanks also goes to Captain Alain Khan whom he said has been there for him.

A decade spent in academy and at sea

“My 10 years of studying were quite tough but I persevered and had my mind set on one thing,” he told me.

“Apart from schooling I had to also spend time at sea, it was all part of the package, as practice is as important as theory in the profession,” Lenny said.

In 2010, he successfully completed his examinations and graduated.
This was not the end! He had to spend two more years to prove that he is worth his salt.

“I did just that on Seychelles Patriot  – the biggest tanker in the fleet of tankers owned by the Seychelles Petroleum Company (Sepec).”

This gave him his promotion in January this year as the Master Mariner.
Lenny joined Sepec in early 2000 and he said the company has also provided him and other Seychelles youths with many opportunities.

He was responsible for about 20 crew including foreigners – Philippinos, Russians and Indians –  and a vessel worth around 40 million euros as well as its cargo.

(The Seychelles Patriot was built in 2008, has a length of 189 metres and deadweight 44700 tonnes).

This means that he is responsible for the safe as well as the efficient operation of the tanker and ensures that it complies with both local and international laws.

“I have to comply with immigration and customs regulations and have to report any accidents.”
However travelling in international waters has become more challenging, I learned from Lenny.

I’ve always thought that being able to work in international waters opens up many opportunities, like getting the chance to travel to other countries and discover their culture, meet new people and do some shopping.

Not really, Lenny told me.
“Countries such as the United States is demanding with high expectations,” he added.
“Since the terrorist attacks and threats on their country the Americans have tightened their security.”

Lenny said they do not have the rights to go on shore and have to remain on the tanker.
He explained that he has to ensure all papers are in order once entering the port or else you can be in trouble.

“Once we did not have a small English book which is required on a foreign vessel and this was an issue.”

“But apart from such happenings in this part of the world, we do get the chance to visit other countries,” he added.

Speaking about his cabin, and life on tanker

Fortunately remaining on the tanker is not bad at all.
“It’s comfortable – I’ve got my own office with internet, bedroom with double bed and en suite bathroom as well as lounge with modern facilities.”

However, once onboard and on duty he does not have much free time.
“When I do, which is rare, I browse the net and chat.”

I wanted to know if his girlfriend and son has had the chance to visit his cabin.
”Yes, definitely. They have visited me onboard,” he said.

“I’m engaged to my girlfriend and we have a two-year-old son.”
Lenny said he knows it’s not easy for them when he is away, but this is his job and is working for his family as well and for their own good.

”We earn good money though we do not get paid when we are on leave,” he noted.
He urges the youths to grab this opportunity especially today as all expenses are paid for by Sepec.

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