By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — Since graduating from Danville High School in 2009, Jacob Treon has traveled around the world on several different ships as a member of the Merchant Marine Academy.
Graduating from the academy in 2013, Treon is currently working on the Maersk Alabama, the ship depicted in the Academy Award-nominated film “Captain Phillips.” He is serving as a third assistant engineer. His duties include regularly checking the engine room, preventative maintenance checks, checking and filling oil in the ship’s equipment and fixing anything that’s broken.
“My job comes down to keeping the ship running and operating properly, and it has been a busy one on here,” wrote Treon in an email interview.
Treon originally wanted to join the Navy, but found out about the Merchant Marine Academy after a suggestion from Danville athletic director Ron Kanaskie. He researched the academy’s program and decided he liked the opportunities it offered.
As a cadet with the academy, he worked on three different ships. Since graduating, he served two months under contract on the Maersk Columbia and is now doing a three-month contract with the Maersk Alabama. Both are container ships, designed to transport goods.
Treon declined to talk about his ship’s relationship to the recent “Captain Phillips” movie, only saying that some of the ship’s crew have a sense of animosity toward the film.
About 24 people crew the Maersk Alabama.
“Those 24 people you see all the time, every day, day in and day out until they get off or you get off,” Treon said. “If anything goes wrong, you can’t call 911 or anyone else. The crew needs to be able to deal with any emergency that might occur, whether it be a fire or an injury or what have you.”
In the event of a fire onboard the ship, Treon is designated as one of the crew members who needs to don a fire-proof suit and extinguish the flames. While Treon has never had to put on the suit, he takes part in regular drills and simulations for practice. About 90 percent of shipboard fires are small enough to extinguish with a portable extinguisher and so far those are the only ones he’s encountered, he said.
Each crew member has their own room with a bed and bathroom, and most also have a couch and desk. The Alabama also has two mess halls, one for licensed crew members and another for unlicensed crew. Typical activities after work include reading, watching movies and working out.
The ships Treon has served on have mainly taken him around the Middle East, but he’s also been to Africa and Singapore. While he hasn’t had the chance to spend too much time offshore in any one place, he has enjoyed being exposed to the different local customs, including dress, food and language.
“I have enjoyed being almost everywhere I have been. I really can’t think of any one story that is my favorite,” he said, though he does remember several late nights out on the town, before an early work day the next morning.
One of the things he likes most is the “feeling to be out in the middle of the ocean where not many others have ventured, knowing that the next ship is miles and miles away.”