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Hotseat - Humbertho Richard Albert

819_hotseatCoast Guard Captain Humbertho Richard Albert is one of the countless members of the disciplined services who, in many cases, sacrificed his personal time and worked long hours to assist in the recovery and cleanup efforts after the strong winds of the category one Hurricane Gonzalo pummelled St. Maarten on the evening of October 13. Like many others, Albert was grateful for the opportunity to be able to help others following the hurricane. The 41-year-old Sagittarius born gives insight into who he is in this week's Hot Seat.

How would you describe yourself?

I am an easy-going person who enjoys working at sea.

Where were you educated, what did you study and why?

I was born in Aruba. I went the Holland in 1996 to study navigation for big ships. After four years in Holland, I got my degree in Mate Mechanic (Stuurmanwerktuigkundige). This means I have a Dutch Certification of Competency that allows me to be a Master on all ship less than 3,000 Gross Tonnage (GT) load capacity. I went to navigation school because I like to work on boats and be at sea. I have been doing this since I was very young and I always enjoy being around water. I also have Dive Master Degree.

How did you end up working with the Coast Guard?

When I completed school in Holland, I wanted to return to the Caribbean. As I like to be at sea, I thought the Coast Guard would be a good job for me.

How did you end up in St. Maarten?

When I joined the Coast Guard in 2002, I was told that I would be transferred to the Coast Guard Sub Station in St. Maarten. So when I completed my Coast Guard course in Curacao in September 2003, I was transferred to St. Maarten to work at the Coast Guard as a Captain of small boats. I am the Captain on the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter (DCCGC) Poema P12. I am responsible for the crew and overall operation of the Cutter and I make the sailing planning of the Cutter for the year.

What do you like about being in the Coast Guard?

Working with the Coast Guard is a good job. I like to travel and be at sea. The Coast Guard gives me the freedom to plan and execute my planning the best way I see fit. The Coast Guard is a professional organisation and we work with different law enforcement authorities in St. Maarten and neighbouring islands. I like to work with different organisations and countries such as the US Coast Guard in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic Coast Guard and the water police of Anguilla.

Best moments as a Coast Guard captain?

My best moment was when I became the first local Captain on a Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter. After 11 years of hard work, I was promoted to Mate First Class and became captain of the Cutter Poema.

How many natural disasters would you estimate you have assisted in during your career?

I have experienced three hurricanes and many disaster calls during my career. My first was Hurricane Omar in 2008. At that time, I was captain of small boats. The day after the hurricane, I was called to look for a missing person in the Great Salt Pond (Pondfill) and we found a body floating after a few minutes.

How did you assist in pre- and post-Hurricane Gonzalo?

Before Hurricane Gonzalo, my crew made sure our vessel was safe and secure. We then helped to secure small boats and loose equipment at the sub-station and went on calls that came in. We also assisted other vessels and boats that needed assistance. I think many boat captains were not prepared for Hurricane Gonzalo.

Did you also suffer any personal damages during the storm? If yes, how did you juggle handling your own personal issues while helping others?

I was very happy I had no personal damages at my apartment. The job of the Coast Guard is very difficult during a hurricane because we have to leave our families behind. For me, it was a little easier because I don't have a family in St. Maarten. I was not home for the duration of Hurricane Gonzalo. I was called in to work from 7:00pm on October 13 to 4:00am on October 14. I worked again from 7:00am to 4:00pm on October 14. I was at the sub-station assisting with the situation in Simpson Bay Lagoon. Between 7:00pm and 10:00 on October 13, the wind speed and the sea conditions were too risky and dangerous for my crew and me to go into the Lagoon with the small boats of the Coast Guard. When the wind speed dropped and the sea conditions got better around 10:00pm, we were able to take two Super Rhibs and 12 Coast Guards in the Lagoon to assist boat captains and owners who needed help. It was a very long day and night.

There was one Gonzalo fatality, who happened to have been a sailor; what advice do you have for ship captains for disaster situations?

Yes, there was one fatality during Hurricane Gonzalo. During the hurricane period, boat captains and owners need to remain informed of the weather conditions at all times so that they can be prepared. Don't wait until the last minute. Always be prepared for a worst case scenario.

Where would you like to see the Coast Guard in the future?

I think the Coast Guard is doing very well on the island of St. Maarten. I would like to see more and more people of St. Maarten join the Coast Guard.

Where can we find you when you are not busy with search and rescue?

When I am not working, I can be found on my jet ski having some fast fun. I also like to go out to dinner with my girlfriend.

Pet peeve?

I don't have any.

What is your favourite type of music?

I like all types of music depending on the situation.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I would invite Romeo Santos, Enrique Iglesias and Roselyn Sanchez. I am not that good at cooking, so I would take them to a nice local place.