Celebrating World Maritime Day
Why don’t you go to sea, have all of your qualifications paid for and see the world at the same time?” was the question posed to me when I was 14 and choosing my career path. With the pressure to decide what to do, for what I believed to be, the rest of my life coupled with the idea of drowning in university debt, a life at sea seemed like a perfect way to build a career, gain some independence and be paid to learn and explore the world!
At 16, and with 10 GCSEs, I embarked on the biggest journey of my life. I started as one of two women in our cohort of 36 and was guided through hours of stability calculations, passage planning and COLREGs by skilled seafarers that had come ashore into lecturing positions, further proving that this was a career for life.
I’ll never forget the “what on earth am I doing here?” moment I had at the bottom of the gangway of my first ship. It’s a feeling that you can’t explain or replicate and after 4 and a half months on board that vessel, traveling through the Panama Canal to Tahiti, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Singapore the feeling of not wanting to go home was stronger than the initial feeling of fear. It was an experience like no other.
During my cadetship I served on 7 vessels ranging from general cargo ships, RoRo Ferries, Cruise ships and buoy tenders. All these vessels were extremely different but there was one similarity between them all: the support from the men I worked with. OK, perhaps not all of the men, and not all the time, but it is all too easy to forget those who have helped and supported you. There are also some fantastic women that have encouraged and supported me just as much and here I celebrate them too. Without the men and women I worked with at sea, there is no chance I would be where I am now.
I always believed I'd work at sea forever, but unforeseen circumstances changed that in a second and when I left my last ship I didn’t know I would never work on one again. I did, however, know that I would be able to use my experience at sea, and the soft skills I learnt, to get another job in the maritime industry. I didn’t know what it would be but I was prepared to fight to get one. You are always advised to get your Master Mariner Certificate of Competency before coming ashore, but I am proof that you can get a shoreside role without one.
Next week marks five years since I started working at the Chamber, first in the Merchant Navy Training Board and moving over into the Policy team last year. I have been able to work with serving seafarers, top executives of shipping companies and those just starting out on their career. The roles I have had have allowed me to evolve and grow in experience and knowledge and provided me with achievements to celebrate i.e. the development and launching of the Safety Culture Charter, the award-winning Careers at Sea video and the chance to empower young women to get involved.
14 years, 13 ships and a very healthy portfolio of shipping contacts later, this industry has given me a fantastic platform to grow, improve and share my story with others looking to go to sea, or to join the maritime industry. There is more to do in this in industry than I ever imagined and every day is an opportunity to learn something new. I thank the maritime industry for being accessible and look forward to what the future might bring. With so many opportunities, who knows what might be next?