From the Dragon’s nest…
The Dragon's nest overlooks the entire Zadar Channel where you can see all the way to the island of Lošinj. Who is the Dragon? Drago Dešpalj is the owner of the EmergenSea, a network that provides 24 hour assistance at sea. He is referred to as “Dragon“ by his international colleagues during his long career as a Dynamic Positioning Specialist for major underwater installations. We spoke to him in the “Dragon’s Nest” which is the EmergenSea headquarters.
Tell me a little about your career as a Dynamic Positioning Specialist, as I know only a little from watching National Geographic.
- In more than 25 years of work, except for the North and South Poles, I have been to all the continents and seas of the world. I have explored underwater volcanoes at depths of over 2,000 meters in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, layed underwater cables between Scotland and Norway, extinguished a burning platform in Egypt, layed the foundation for a Saudi oil platforms, and a gas pipeline in the northern Adriatic.
Did your work as Dynamic Positioning Specialist influence your decision to create the EmergenSea network?
- Absolutely, all the safety rules and technical standards that I learned were easily applicable in offshore assistance operations, especially those related to the towing and retrieval of sunken vessels. I wanted to use my experience, so I came up with the EmergenSea business model to provide an important service in my home country of Croatia, and to provide employment and professional work standards for my colleagues. An important part of my decision was based on making a contribution to environmental protection of our sea. I am proud of the quality partners and our network coordination that evolves and improves in each of the past 14 years. The recent retrieval of 330 ton sunken ship in Pula showed that best, as we used innovative methods requiring no cranes, that are completely unknown to our competitors.
What are the most important elements in providing the best possible assistance at sea?
- There are many, starting with 810 meter SAR dinghies specially equipped to our strict standards that help achieve our goal of arrival on site within an hour. Experienced and well trained skippers are very important as well. The element that ties together our resources is coordination, as a team approach always yields the best results. In short, adequate resources and experienced teamwork are the most important elements.
Do you think that your network adequately covers the entire territorial sea of the Republic of Croatia?
- In our 14 years of experience, the EmergenSea network has evolved to 21 bases with the majority based on islands. In this way, we can achieve the fastest arrivals on the spot, with a goal of reaching all clients within what we call the “Golden Hour”. We consider EmergenSea members to be part of our family, and that is how we treat them. Membership entitles them to a host of guaranteed free services, and often we go above and beyond. At any time of the day or night on 0996 112 112, all members can get help or advice which is sometimes life-saving, and our local personnel pass on local information and advice, when our members need it most.
Can boaters in need get help even though they are not members of the network?
- Absolutely, by calling 0996 112 112 day or night. As a bonus, nonmembers that are insured with our partner insurers (Premium Yacht Insurance by Jack Surija, Croatia Osiguranje, Generali, and Wiener) or have their vessels are in partner marinas; earn a 30% discount on the EmergenSea regular service prices. To all non-members, we highly recommend insuring with our partner insurers.
You highlighted your environmental awareness. What are you actively doing in this field?
- I am glad you asked, as too many people just talk, and show little action. EmergenSea warns various institutions of possible environmental incidents. In cases of sunken vessels, we put pressure on appropriate institutions until a removal order is issued. We actively warn boaters that show irresponsible environmental behavior, and continuously collect plastic waste. We also work with the Blue World Environmental Association that specializes in rescuing and observing dolphins and other endangered marine species, by providing rescue of endangered, wounded, stranded or stray sea animals.