Skip to Content
DFDS ferry passing White Cliffs (credit DFDS)
Skills4dover » Apprenticeships » Apprentice Profile: Lewis Byford, DFDS

Apprentice Profile: Lewis Byford, DFDS

Lewis Byford DFDS apprenticeWhich DFDS ship are you currently working on?

Dover Seaways

Which apprenticeship are you pursuing – deck or engine?


How did you hear about the apprenticeship and what attracted you to the scheme?

I was already working for DFDS shore side when I received an email about the apprenticeship scheme and decided to look into it more. What appealed to me most was the range of skills, challenges and opportunities on offer, particularly the practical courses such as First Aid and fire-fighting.

Why did you choose to do the apprenticeship specifically with DFDS?

Having worked for DFDS previously when the opportunity arose, it seemed like the next logical step to expand my skill set. DFDS encourage professional progression which appealed to me and I eventually want to work towards my officer qualifications.

What were you doing before you joined the scheme?

I worked shore side for DFDS, mainly in customer service and the check-in booths but also loading the ships.

Could you describe a typical day at work as an apprentice?  Please include as many photos as you can.

Because Dover Seaways is a Ro-Ro ferry, the main job is securing the ship in port and ensuring safe loading and unloading of passenger cars and freight. During the crossing and layover periods I work in a team and am responsible for a variety of different jobs, mainly maintenance tasks including greasing all water tight doors and winches, chipping and painting, washing down the decks, splicing mooring ropes or other rope work such as heaving lines and messengers. Another area of the job includes taking the lifeboats and fast rescue boats out to ensure they are maintained and up to the job at all times.

Working on the bridges is also an important part of my role on board, so we spend time bridge watching which works towards getting our steering ticket and navigation watch rating certificate. We’re taught on the job, but also during college training at Gravesend College to ensure these jobs are done competently.

What is the main thing that you’ve learned during the apprenticeship?

During the last two years I have learnt a number of new skills so it’s hard to pick just one specific thing. Some of the main skills I’ve learnt include: nautical terminology, various knots, use of anchors, deck maintenance, fire-fighting and fire prevention, First Aid, launching life boats and being part of a lifeboat crew, the different alarms on board and responsibilities I have in a drill as well as how to work safely, and the correct PPE to use for the each job. Each of these important skills I have acquired over the course of my apprenticeship and has led to my Efficient Deck Hand certificate at the end of the two years, something I’m immensely proud of achieving.

How did you find the adjustment to working shifts and living on board a ferry?

At first it’s quite difficult to adjust working away from home but I soon settled in, after making friends and getting to know everyone it becomes quite easy.

What have you enjoyed most about the role?

I enjoy the different variety of jobs we do on board. One of my favourite jobs is taking the fast rescue boats and lifeboats out.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is probably the time spent away from home, not being able to see your friends and family every evening after work like a typical job. However you soon adjust and learn to make the most of your time off at home. For instance whenever I’m home now I value that time by planning days trips or weekends away, which makes going home more exciting.

What are your ambitions for the future? Can you describe what you’d like to do next?

I am looking forward to getting my AB’s ticket and keep improving and learning as an AB. Once I am more confident in the job and I have enough sea time I would like to start working towards the officer of the watch ticket.

When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?

I like catching up with my friends, usually having at least one night out during my leave to catch up with everyone and have a few beers. I use this time as effectively as possible to travel, relax and spend time with family and friends.

What do your friends and family think about your apprenticeship role?

They know that it is tough at times because I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the ship but I feel they are definitely proud of what I have achieved. My friends are always asking lots of questions about my job and the ships and I know a lot of my friends find what I’m doing interesting and different.

What was it like working on board and how did it differ from life on the DFDS ships?

At first it felt very different because the role of the ship was completely different from a ferry. After a few days on board however I started to learn the job and my colleagues were excellent at showing me how to do everything. From working on the ferry before I felt I had a good idea of how to do the seamanship side of the job, such as tie-ups and using anchors, and studying at college also helped me prepare for the side of the job.

How did you learn from the experience?

Being on board helped me put into practice some of the skills that we learnt at college that weren’t applicable to the ship I had worked on before. For example, the Pole Star didn’t have any winches so all the mooring ropes had to be tightened and tied off using a stopper, but on the Dover Seaways all the ropes can stay on the drum.

Would you recommend this experience as a part of apprenticeship training?

Yes, definitely. I think it’s a good idea because it will help apprentices have a wider understanding of working on different ship types. I had a really positive experience on board and working on different ships has given me more practical skills that I can use more widely.