Born in the Jungle: Meet the Man Playing Midwife to Champa Pandaw

Building a beautiful and convenient river ship is long and complicated process. But, how about the shipbuilders? Let’s accompany with Captain Duncan Trollope, who is known as an experienced shipbuilding supervisor to know more about such workers.

In the intersection of Thailand, Laos and Burma where is known with the name of Golden Triangle, Captain Duncan Trollope is working hard nearly “day and night” to keep the pace with the deadline of making the newest ship – the RV Champa Pandaw. This ship will be in operation on 21 Sept with the cruise from Laos to China.

Every morning, Captain Trollope with the mission as the Pandaw’s New Build Supervisor starts his way to the work place by boat from Chiang Saen – a Thailand town in the river bank. His boat will move up to the Mekong and head to Ruak section of the Mekong river to stop at the Burmese port town of Tachileik - the Pandaw’s jungle shipyard. Amidst the noise made by clang, hammers, saws, generators and the flying sparks, Duncan calmly leads his team work in the special environment which must be seen as one of the most remote and unique workplaces in the world. 

Born in the Jungle: Meet the Man Playing Midwife to Champa Pandaw

Captain Trollope, who works hard all day to make sure the quality of the ship, provides us some fascinating photos. These rare photos describing the behind scenes of building ship partly help you to take a close look to the process of completing a Pandaw ship. 

50 Burmese shipbuilders moving from Mandalay to this shipping yard work under Duncan’s supervision to finish the 44.5-meter-long ship on time. After that, the ship will be sailed to Thailand to be installed the luxurious equipments.

According to Captain Trollope, the hull of the Champa was done in a shipyard on Laos. However, to make the ship strong enough to go upward the Mekong currents and meet the standard of a Pandaw, experts are very necessary. He believes in his team who has special experiences in building and installing ship can make a qualified ship that can fulfill passengers’ expectation.

Beside known a Singaporean mariner and shipping agent, now Captain Trollope has become a person who can not be absent in the team. 15 years ago, he took part in this team as a consultant. Later, in 2014, he became the supervisor of the building ship process and has played an important role in the birth of four new Pandaw ships. 

Living in a remote jungle with 50 workers who spoke another language, Duncan himself admitted that there were a lot of challenges in his life. However, he got help from an assistant who kept in touch with other men and his English ability was quite good. 

Thanks to the full experience Burmese supervisors leading individual teams, the troubles about personnel do not usually happen and the working atmosphere is bustling and busy although the team works in the isolation shipyard and time intensity. 

This corner of Golden Triangle is where the Thai trade happened. You can capture the images of the boats loaded with cattle and pigs moving from shore to shore. With the beauty of idyllic landscape, it attracts Thai come to spend time relaxing and going sightseeing. 

Despite working in this destination, Captain Trollope has no chance to explore this remote highland until the Champa Pandaw is fully finished.

He will go along with the ship sailing to Vientiane – the capital of Laos to find whether the ship has any problems, apply his knowledge and his experience which supports him to become a pillar of the Panda operation to make everything in the its way.

When you have opportunity to enjoy the ship in its completed state, please review all these picture and think how this ship was made in short period of time. 


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