In April 1968, a group of sailors began their apprenticeships on the training ship MS Leventina in Basel. A half-century later, they met once again to see whether they’ve still got a nose for the nautical. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
The Swiss mariners talked of travelling for miles across the country to join the ship's crew in Basel, the tearful separation from their parents, the strict regime with an obligatory daily dip in the Rhine before breakfast, and how camaraderie brought them through the hard times and demanding work.
Between 1939 and 1973, about 1,500 young men aged between 14 and 16 were trained as sailors in Basel. The school closed at the beginning of the 1990s, and trainee mariners from Switzerland have since travelled to Duisburg in Germany for their theoretical training, at Duisportexternal link – the world’s largest inland port, at the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr.
Between 15 and 20 young sailors still get their practical experience on the Rhine in Basel, which is also home to an important trading port. And more than 10 percent of all Swiss imports still find their way to the Port of Switzerlandexternal link, travelling along the Rhine via ocean ports like Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. Around 100 companies work in Basel, Birsfelden, and Muttenz and facilitate a major part of Swiss exports.