Among hosepipes and couplings

Vatten-Mats in action at the quay by a cruise vessel

It is no coincidence that he is known as Mats-the water guy. The tools of his trade are hoses, nozzles and flow meters and during the working day Mats Andersson empties thousands of litres of waste water from cruise ships.

But his job involves much more than just standing on the quay and monitoring the water pressure. He also has to be able to get on well with the crew members on the ships.


Mats Andersson enjoys a cup of coffee at Masthamnen, close to Stadsgården. The water looks like the surface of a mirror outside and it is one of those sunny Stockholm spring mornings that can make anyone begin to wax lyrical about the Venice of the North. Mats is content with stating, “It is so lovely you wish you were here on holiday.”


There are forty-five minutes to go before the first cruise ship of the season arrives for Mats to empty. It is a gentle start to the season, as the ship is not so large (only 199.5 metres long) and Mats has emptied it several times before. Mats goes out onto the quay together with his colleague Sören to check that everything is in order at the pumping station.


The Saga Sapphire approaches the quay and Mats prepares to catch the heaving line for the stern hawser. The crewman aboard performs an impressive lasso swing over his head before throwing the thin line over to the quay. Mats uses this line to draw the attached and much thicker hawser over to the quay.


Mats has established contact with the crew members responsible for the water supplies aboard and fetches a nozzle from his specially equipped water-services minibus so that he can connect to the ship’s system. To be able to monitor how much fresh water the Saga Sapphire sucks in Mats installs a flow meter between  the ship’s hose and the pumping station on the quay. Ports of Stockholm pays Stockholm Vatten for the amount of water used and in turn Ports of Stockholm debits the shipping company.


The connections are in place and fresh water is pumped to the ship.


Now things need to happen in a hurry. The 317 meter long behemoth Celebrity Silhouette is about to make her maiden call into Stockholm and will soon arrive at Frihamnen. In the minibus on the way to Frihamnen Mats explains what his job was like when he started to work for Ports of Stockholm in 1988.

“There were a lot fewer quays and the traffic was mostly cargo ships. There were coffee ships and bulk salt carriers. Now the cruise ships reign supreme. And you need a permit to get inside the security fence. When I started everyone could walk right up to any of the ships. It was often chaotic when different sales people almost came to blows about who would get the best position,” Mats reminisces.


When Mats arrives at Frihamnen the Celebrity Silhouette is around 50 meters out from the quay. The first time a cruise ship calls at Stockholm she is traditionally welcomed by an orchestra playing on the quay. Today is no exception. Beside the entrance to the terminal building the experienced brass band “Stockholms fröjder” has taken up position and their conductor Kaj Landqvist gives the instruction to begin playing “Stockholm in my heart”.


Mats is standing beside the door that he believes is the entrance to the ship's water system. But the clock is ticking and nobody opens the door, which Mats thinks is strange.

“We can empty a maximum of 300 cubic meters an hour, so if they want to offload 1000 cubic meters it would be as well to get started. The ship is due to depart again in the afternoon,” says Mats.


The hatch opens and two crew members peer out from the gigantic white vessel’s side. Mats picks up an iron spike to remove the heavy hatch that covers the drain connection point on the quay.
Following a brief discussion about the nozzle, Mats fetches two American-type nozzles and throws one end of his red waste hosepipe over to the crew members.


Offloading of the waste water has begun and Mats moves to the front of the ship, to where the freshwater system is. He offers to lend his blue hosepipe to the crew members, but the ship’s Environmental Officer, Thomas Vatianos, declines this offer as the ship’s environmental policy demands that only the ship’s own hosepipe is used.


A crew member reports that there is a leak in the waste hosepipe. When Mats gets there he sees that there is water dripping from the hosepipe, but it is a small amount and it is dripping very slowly. He calmly talks to the Environmental Officer and the crew solves the problem by placing a bucket under the small leak.

“It pays to try to establish a good interaction with the ship’s crew. It is then much easier to solve any problems that arise,” Mats explains.


Mats completes the necessary paperwork about the flow meter readings. It is now four hours since he had his cup of coffee in Masthamnen and for the past three hours he has been on the go non-stop, carrying different tools and hoses the entire time.

“Today was fairly quiet. But sometimes it can be really stressful when there are several ships in port at the same time and different shipping agents and captains are calling and demanding that I should give them priority. But there is something really satisfying about working at a hectic pace too, otherwise I wouldn’t have been doing this for almost 30 years!” states Mats.

Facts about waste water

Seventy percent of the international cruise ships offload their waste water via Ports of Stockholm. Ninety-eight percent of the ferry services to Finland, Russia, Poland and the Baltic States offload their waste water in port.