The elements of ship ownership and operation in Galapagos is complicated.  They consist of the following pieces:

1) Permit holders:  Must be Galapagos residents. They own the right to run a ship of a certain size.  They can rent that right out to a third party.  The permit holders got into Galapagos cruise ships in the early days and were formally recognized back in 1998 when the industry became more rigorously regulated. 

2) Ship owner:  Can be anyone.  They put up the capital to buy the ship.  

3) Ship operator:  Can be anyone.  They keep the ship in good mechanical condition, ensure that it's well maintained and that it's crewed with professional staff.

4) Ship commercial representative:  Can be anyone.  They are responsible for ensuring that the ship sails at maximum capacity.

Most permit holders have long ago relinquished the responsibility of owning and operating a ship.  They rent out their permits to ship owners, sit back and enjoy the regular income.  A small number of permit holders still own AND operate their ships.  Very few will own, operate AND act as commercial operators as well.  

In the case of Integrity, the permit holder, the owner AND the operator is Rolf Sievers (with support from his two sons).  

Rolf Sievers was born in Germany, just before the 2nd World War.  In the late 1950’s, his parents emigrated to Galapagos and took him along.  He was 20 years old.   In those days, Galapagos enjoyed a mystical popular appeal in Germany – as a kind of “lost paradise”.   The Sievers were not the only Germans to leave Germany to establish themselves in Galapagos.   In the islands, Rolf helped his family scratch out a homestead in the rough volcanic land, long before such luxuries as electricity, running water, or medical services were available there.

Rolf’s first paid job was tending the seismograph at the brand new Charles Darwin Research Station in 1964.  He quickly rose through the ranks to become manager of the station in 1968, a position he held for a decade before leaving in 1978 to start small yacht tours of the islands.  Today, more than 40 years later, he, his wife and their two sons Dirk and Christian, own, operate and maintain INTEGRITY from their base in Puerto Ayora.  Rolf gave INTEGRITY its name based on what he felt was lacking in Galapagos operations at the time.  The Sievers family is all about Integrity.   They make sure the ship is in “ship shape” conditions at all times, they manage the annual maintenance, they hire and train the crew and ensure the hospitality side of the ship is top notch.  The sales side of the business is given over to a trusted friend.  

That friend, based in the USA, shares his thoughts on Rolf and the family operation: 

Rolf is all about the details. “Good enough” is never good enough for Rolf. While he has passed most of the day-to-day operation to his two sons, Rolf remains intimately involved.  His experience at the Darwin Station served as the inspiration to ensure INTEGRITY’s green credentials were second to none.  This extends far beyond the obvious items like onboard oil separation systems, waste water treatment, recycling and plastic-free operations.  It also encompasses installing the only electronically controlled engines for a Galapagos vessel her size, and in the planning of routes to avoid unnecessary backtracking and wasting of fuel.  Rolf is also fond of redundancy.  Two generators, back up navigation, communications and safety systems are installed to ensure guest safety and seamless operations while out of port.

Rolf’s farm in the Santa Cruz highlands is the source of all the Cedrela (tropical cedar) hardwood used on board. All the wood aboard INTEGRITY was harvested, milled and fitted from Rolf’s farm.  This wood is exceptional for marine use and gives the yacht’s interiors their warm tone.

Rolf’s son Christian takes care of logistics.  He oversees the outfitting of INTEGRITY’s interiors, catering and training of the crews in high-end service standards, expected of a luxury yacht. This extends down to the little details, like ordering custom logo dinner and glassware. 

Rolf’s other son Dirk is the gear head.  He’s responsible for INTEGRITY’s technical operations.  His love for technology has led to INTEGRITY being fitted out with the best and latest in safety, navigation and communications gear.  He oversees all aspects of the yacht’s systems, from engine maintenance and overhaul to the state of the art satellite antenna powering the complimentary internet and Wi-Fi.

The Sievers family are one of the few owners who maintain a fully-stocked maintenance base right in Puerto Ayora.  Day-to-day maintenance and most repairs are done in port without having to send the yacht to a Guayaquil shipyard.  That said, the INTEGRITY goes to Guayaquil every other year for dry-dock and heavy maintenance.

 

 

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This was a once in a lifetime trip and I can't compare it to anything as it is an experience that stands alone.

Jodi B.
Toronto

 

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