Your story

May 8th 1980

In route from Singapore to Hong Kong on board the Container ship Alva Maersk belonging to Maersk Line In Copenhagen.

My name is Poul Buchholz Hansen, I was signed on as Chief Officer on Alva Maersk.

We were off the coast of Vietnam, the time was approx. 0827, my watch was ending at 0830, the 2nd officer was up on the bridge, and when I took a last glance around the horizon just before handing over the watch then I observed a small boat in distress.

People stood there waving a red flag, I presumed it was boat refugees who were in the boat.

Quite right, when we came closer we saw that it was a small boat which was overcrowded with children and adults.

The Vietnamese boat refugees were gradually sailing all the way out to the sailing routes ships would pass either on way to Singapore or on their way north.

The small boat with 64 persons onboard
The small boat with 64 persons onboard

In the past we sailed much closer to the coast of Vietnam when we sailed south.


But now there were so many boat refugees  that we were passing farther out.

There was no one who directly gave us orders to sail further out.

But the shipping company suggested we sailed with more distance from the coast of Vietnam.

When we stopped Alva Maersk then we could see that there were approximately 60-70 people in the small boat, a mixture of children and adults.


 We helped them up on board, and it turned out they were 64 people in the boat, many were exhausted by the harrowing trip.

They were all accommodated in the gymnasium which was big enough to accommodate all of them.

We had 4 toilets they could use and in the hospital which was empty, they could take a bath and tidy themselves up.


The chef immediately started making some food for them they had rice with vegetables, something that everyone could withstand.


 Not long after they had finished their meal I was called to the gym, there was a boy i5-6 years of age who had stomach ache.


When I asked him how much he had eaten, all the others started laughing.

 It turned out that he had eaten more than the adults, approximately. 3-4 plates of rice, He was hungry, he told.

I could only find that his stomach ache would probably pass over after a while, I did not dare to give him any medicine.


the woman who arranged for the list to be written.

One of the adults promised to keep in mind that he did not eat too much next time.


The skipper came to me, absolutely crazy, He told that the authorities was demanding a list of all boat refugees with names , etc., before we could get permission to enter the port of Hong Kong. 

I promised to acquire such a list within 30 minutes time, a list that could be sent to the immigration authorities in Hong Kong. 

At that time there were daily boat refugees arriving in Hong Kong, many refugees came every single day,  so in Hong Kong, the authorities knew the procedures.

I went down to gym and explained about the list that should be written.

A woman who spoke excellent English told that she could easily arrange for such a list to be written.  

She said a few words in Vietnamese, and immediately everyone stood in rows.

A row for each family, everyone stood right, and the children were completely stiff in the face. 

It was openly something that they understood and had tried before.

It did not last long before the woman could hand in a written list with all the names, overall family for family.

I think it took about 40 minutes before I handed over the list to the skipper, Helge Holm, he was called the skipper.

It was equally good as he said, He had obviously thought it would take longer to finish the list.

The Stewardesses who were on board at that time did a great job, in order for the boat refugees to live roughly while they were on board. 

It was sad to look at people who had to flee from their own country, it made us all  pain to watch.

Amongst there was a father alone with three small children.


The others told that the mother who should have been with have been lost under way to the boat.

She had not arrived at the boat at the agreed time, so the others had to leave.

What had happened to the mother no one could disclose.

At a later date, an inventory was made in France where it was estimated that approx. 50% of all boat refugees could not be accounted for.

When we arrived in Hong Kong, refugees were locked into the gym because if someone somebody was missing when immigration arrived.

They were driven in a bus directly to a collection camp, but not before they had been sprayed with a detergent agains head lice.

Spraying took place in the gym before leaving the room, it smelled terrible and was very difficult to get cleaned. 

All blankets and the like we thrown out to avoid being infected with something.

IMG_20150508_0002 kopi

“Instant report of the incident.”

“Thursday, May  8th, 1980 at. About 0827 I observed a fishing boat on port side in Position approx. 07 degrees 43’ north, 108 degrees 33’ east, as the boat had a strange form, I took my binoculars and then inspected more carefully what kind of boat it was.

It turned out that the strange shape emerged from the fact that there were a lot of people standing and waving their arms.

On the roof stood one a waving a flag.

I warned the captain.

We turned the ship around and when we got closer we could see they waved with the International Emergency Flag NC.

There seemed to be about 50 people aboard the little fishing boat that had rigged networks alongside.

Probably because they should not fall out of the boat.

We stopped the engine and came up alongside of the boat that had No. KG0095TH.

We assessed the boat for approx. 10 m long, approx. 20 tons. 


It turned out that the people were Vietnamese refugees who asked to be brought along.

They first asked where we came from, they were clearly nervous that we were Russians.

They said the Russians sent refugees back to Vietnam.

We lowered the port side gangway off so that they could come onboard.

On the deck of the boat lay some women and children, they were so fed up with sea sickness and exhaustion that they should be asked to get up.

They were too dull to really understand anything.

IMG_20150508_0003 kopi

I stood at the end of the gangway to help them on board. 

The 2.Nd officer stood up on the deck to examine them for weapons.

At about  0900 hours, all refugees were on board. 

I went down into the boat with one of the Vietnamese to take the bottom plug out of the boat.

We could not find any bottom plug, with there were a lot of different tools in the boat.

The Vietnamese took a hammer and a Chisel and made a big hole in the bottom of the boat.

While the Vietnamese person made the hole in the boat, I investigated what other things was in the boat. 

It turned out that the escape had been carefully planned, because the boat was equipped with a large interior engine and a large outboard engine.

One could see that they had a lot of spare fuel in the bins.

The NC Signal flags were brand new.

In addition, there were 5 pieces emergency missiles as well as instruction in semaphore signaling in the wheelhouse. 

The boat had a small compass, as well as a sail chart covering the river delta at Saigon, or Ho-Chi-Min as it is called now, as well as another drawn map of the Singapore-Vietnam area. 

Showing what courses should be maintained to get to the routes followed by 

the big ships.


At about 0917 we could continue the journey to Hong Kong .

 “Unquote “

IMG_20150508_0004 kopi


It later turned out that approx. 33 of the Vietnamese boat refugees came to Denmark, a country they had not heard of before. 

I later received a letter from 30 of the boat refugees in which they thanked all involved for the rescue

They waited with writing until they could express themselves in Danish.

The letter is reproduced in full. (and translated as lovingly as possible)

Aarhus on 10 December 1980

Dear Mr. Hansen
We are some of the 64 Vietnamese who were saved by you and Your sailor corps the 8/5 1980 in South China Sea.

For 3 months we were temporarily living in Hong Kong.

We settled down in Aarhus 4 months ago.

The others have settled in Other countries: America, West Germany and Canada.

We would like to write a letter to you to inform you as soon as we arrived in Denmark.

But we would not like to write in Vietnamese or other languages, therefore, we waited for a day when we could write in Danish to inform you, and we sincerely thank you for your salvation.

Here we have our very complete life.

Danish refugee care is very large, and we, who have no country, do not have any less-favored-mindedness anymore.

We are going to school to learn Danish, and we also try to get acquainted with the lives of Danes although there are some different customs in Europe and Asia.

We would like to learn Danish quickly to work and have an independent life, because we know that the dance people reduced their rations to help us.

We are very touched by the friendly help.

We are very happy to live in a country who is full of love for humanity.

It was our wish when we fled out of our country.

Although we also knew that there were many dangers that might have been waiting for us, to be caught or shot by Communist soldiers, or maybe meeting pirates or getting lost to some islands where people do not live or our little boat might sink down etc.

But we accepted all the dangers for just to find freedom

We would like to tell you an ancient history from China.

Once in the old days a philosopher went past a big forest with his students.

He saw a woman who sat on the ground and cried.

He stopped and asked her “why are you crying”

The woman replied, “My son was just eaten by a tiger, and last month my husband was also eaten by the tiger.

I do not know when the tiger will eat me?

The philosopher asked, “Why do not you move to a city?”

I would rather live here and accept a death than live in the town where an official is cruelly ruling, she replied.

The philosopher turned around and told his students, A cruel ruler is more terrible than a wild tiger.

Truly, there is no freedom and human rights in Vietnam, there is only a dictatorial regime.

Vietnamese people do not know anything about the world anymore.

The mouth and ears were closed on them and they were tied to their eyes by Vietnamese Communists.

Vietnamese Communists pulled back peoples progress, killing thousands of troubled minds in disgusting wars, built thousands of prisons, buried thousands of people on the bottom of the ocean, and separated thousands of families.  Men and wives, parents and children, and siblings etc.

It is Vietnamese Communist Criminals, like all the best people in the world, should judge.

We lived again when you saved us.

We will always be very grateful to you.

We live in Denmark and we are very touched by the Danish peoples sincere help.

We shall never forget them.

We are always ready to do something that the Danish government asks us for.

We also ask You to save Vietnam boat refugees who you meet at the sea because they are people who love freedom.

Many kind regards from 33 Vietnamese people

I have tried to translate as well as possible while I have considered all the flaws that are in the language.

I hope you Is indulgent with me if there are some funny twists.











Obviously, I am the only one who has information about You from then, I can always be contacted on E: mail.

I hope that Your story will be conveyed to your children and grandchildren so they better understand what You have been through in Your life.

I hope that Your history will be well received among Your immediate

I wish you all good luck,

Poul Buchholz Hansen

I have not included any names in this report, if you want a report with all the names of the refugees then please contact me.

Your history is published as an IBook that can be read in Ibooks on an iPad. 

There is also a version as PDF files that can be read by all computers.

Let me know which edition You want to Your nearest of kind if You want extra copies.



Kontoret på Esplanaden 2003, VES


Da jeg begyndte at arbejde ude i Cencys viste det sig at det skulle blive længerevarende affære.

Jeg arbejde ude i Censys i ca. 9 måneder i alt.

Da jeg samtidig arbejde i Teknisk Organisation var det lidt forvirrende.

Inde i Teknisk Organisation havde vi ugentlige møder som jeg tit og ofte ikke kunne deltage i.

Lidt forvirrende, det resulterede i at der ikke var mange der var klar over hvor jeg var, og om jeg i det hele taget arbejde.

jeg kom og gik jo hele tiden.

Mine chefer skiftede også mange gange, så det var slet ikke nemt at finde ud af hvor jeg skulle henvende mig.

I Censys skulle mit projekt udbydes i licens.

Chefen sagde at Mærsk Data også skulle involveres samt WV (folkevognsfabrikkerne).

Mærsk Line havde åbentbart en stor tranport af biler fra deres fabrikker, derfor skulle de også inviteres.

Jeg sagde til chefen at hvis Maersk Data skulle involveres, så fik vi sikkert et resultat der måske ikke kunne bruges?

Det spekulerede han lidt på, men gav mig ret i min tankegang.

Vi begyndte så på at udarbejde en projekt organisation idet vi jo først skulle have penge til rådighed for projektet.

Først skulle vi finde ud af hvem der skulle kontrollere projektet og hvem der skulle stå for hvilke dele og et tidsskema som skulle kunne holdes.

Alt det lavede konsulenten idet jeg ingen idet havde om sådant et arbejde, men han var ekspert i at skrive og havde i hans tid lavet mange projekter.

For ham var det hverdag.

chapter 1

Medens han fik styr på projekt organisationen prøvede jeg at finde ud af hvad VES skulle indeholde.

Jeg havde skrevet til mine kollegaer ude i skibene for at få deres tanker.

Men fordi det var et ikke eksisterende program var det svært for dem at komme med forslag.

Det meste af det der kom med i første udgave af VES var det jeg havde samlet sammen over en periode på flere år.

Jeg mente, at skulle det have en chance for at blive accepteret skulle der være noget for enhver.

Det var jo ikke kun skibsføreren der skulle bruge VES, selv om han selvfølgelig skulle have første prioritet.

Jeg begyndte at skrive en arbejdsbog, eller instruktionsbog er nok det rigtige ord.

Det var en beskrivelse af hvad programmet skulle indeholde og hvorledes det skulle se ud.

Der skulle være plancher som viste alle dele af VES samt hvor der skulle indsættes talebobler,(der hvor mange pegede med musen og lod musen stå stille et sekund skulle der fremkomme hvilket format man skulle indskrive i feltet samt hvilket man skulle skrive)

Samtidig fordi rederiet havde skoleskibe så skulle programmet også kunne bruges i undervisningen.

Derfor blev det hele sat op således at der kunne være et vist antal brugere som kunne bruge programmet samtidig.

Vel at bemærke med hver deres rettigheder.

cpater 3cNogle kunne kun se, men ikke rette i noget, andre kunne skrive på visse sider.

Kaptajnen han kunne rette i alt.

Det gjorde at programmet blev i lidt dyrere i totalprisen.

Jeg prøver at beskrive hvad programmet skulle indeholde.

Hver eneste side skulle beskrives til mindste detalje for at de firmaer der skulle give deres tilbud om pris og tidpunkt for levering kunne lave en analyse af deres behov.

Der skulle være en side med Vessel setup, idet alle skibe var forskellige, desuden var det også meningen at VES skulle kunne bruges af chartrede skibe.

På setup  siden skulle der være plads til alle de nødvendige detaljer og skibene, deres maskinkraft, trim, IMO nummer og meget andet.

Skibstypen skulle også kunne indsættes idet VES skulle dele oplysninger ud til alle typer skibe hvadenten det var Mærsk både eller indchartrede skibe.

Da vi begyndte på projektet blev vi forespurgt af Nautisk afdeling om de kunne få en side i VES som kunne vise Safe Port memoer for alle skibstyper.

Det kunne de sagtens, mod selv at betale for det system der skulle lave siderne inde på rederiet.

Så Nautisk afdeling udviklede et system inde på rederiet som bevirkede at skibene altid havde det sidst opdaterede dokument over havnene til rådighed.

Jeg kommer senere ind på hvorledes det virkede.

Der skulle også indbygges en tidevandstabel.

VES tide.001

Det hele blev så sendt ud til WV (folkevognsfabrikkerne), et firma i Sydafrika, et Indisk firma samt et firma i Danmark.

Ud fra beskrivelsen i arbejdsbogen kom de med forskellige bud efter et stykke tid.

WV skulle bruge ca. 2 år på opgaven, jeg tror ikke at de var interesseret i opgaven, derfor den lange udviklingtid.

Det Indiske firma skulle bruge et års tid til opgaven, og de ville kun udvikle tingene i Indien, hvilket ville for mit vedkommende medføre mange ture til Indien.

Derfor blev det ikke til noget.

Det Sydafrikanske firma skulle bruge fra Oktober til April på opgaven, de ville også lave det i Sydafrika og derfor ville det medføre meget rejseri frem og tilbage.

Det Danske firma ITP skulle bruge fra september til februar, men da det ikke var det billigste tilbud, men derimod det dyreste skulle der lige tænkes lidt mere over tilbuddet.

Det blev det danske firma der vandt på totalprisen selv om det var det dyreste tilbud så var det i sidste ende det billigeste mente vi.

De kunne tilbyde on the spot programmering.’Det vil sige at de kunne komme til os og der udvikle programmet.

Ved at tage IT Practice skulle der bruges ca. 810000$ for at lave IT værktøjet som senere blev benævnt som VES.

Pengene som var bevilliget af Line afdelingen var allerede til rådighed, så det var bare om at komme igang med arbejdet.

Censys som i mellemtiden var flyttet ind på Færgevej 14 i Frihavnen havde lokaler der kunne bruges.

Konsulenten og mig havde hver vores skrivebord, de andre 4-6 mand sad midt i lokalet ved et rundbord.

På væggen var der en stor tavle som vi kunne bruge.

Fordelen ved den fremgangsmåde var at vi sad i fælleskab og udviklede programmet, således at forstå at hvis der var noget der var uklart kunne det klares med det sammme.

Det var ingen forsinkelse som der ville være hvis det var et af de andre firmaer som havde vundet opgaven.

Det skulle senere vise sig at være en stor fordel.

Det var lidt af en oplevelse at se computernørder være i et såkaldt slipse-miljø.

De kom i det tøj de gik og stod i, mange gange kunne man godt få  fornemmelsen af at de ikke have været i seng om natten.

De kom helt skæve af at have været igang hele natten med andre opgaver.

Det viste sig at flere af dem udviklede spil i deres fritid, og når de først kom igang var det åbentbart svært at stoppe.

De mødte om morgenen med deres pisakasser og coca cola flasker.

De sad og spiste ved deres rundbord, det var man åbentbart ikke vant til i den afdeling.

Men hyggeligt det var det, af og til var diskussionerne højlydt, især når vi skulle finde ud af noget der ikke var lavet før, så gik bølgerne højt til stor moro for de fastansatte i Censys.

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