"The world will always need seafarers," Guy Platten tells cadets
Whatever the peaks and troughs of economies and markets, there will always be demand for quality seafarers, said the UK Chamber CEO
Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, has received the Honorary Award of the Dr Winterbottom Fellowship from South Tyneside College.
The honour was bestowed at the college's HE graduation event on July 5th. The award commemorates Dr Thomas Winterbottom, a distinguished physician from South Shields, who bequeathed the bulk of his estate to found the original South Shields Marine College, which he had established in 1837. He died in 1859 at the age of 93.
"Events such as these remind me of when I qualified some 32 years ago with my OOW certificate," Mr Platten said in his speech to the graduating class of cadets.
"There was a real bag of mixed emotions, joy from finishing studies successfully but apprehension as to what lay ahead when I would be expected to play my full part in ship operations as a certificated officer! I also remember clearly as if it was yesterday the feeling of slight panic when the Captain left the bridge after we left port on my first trip as third officer and handed the responsibility of keeping a safe navigational watch to me. Luckily I didn’t crash and all went well, although I did find out later that the Captain had spent the whole of my watch looking out of the porthole from his cabin!
"Following recent political events some of you may worry that you are entering into an uncertain world but let me just say this. The UK depended on the shipping industry for its trade last year. And it still does this year and it will continue to do so for as long as we are an island.
"The UK has always needed to make its way in the world through buying and selling. Putting cargo on ships and moving them around the world. We were an island nation last week and we are an island nation now with a deep maritime history and a strong maritime future.
"Our industry has always had a habit of being too self-critical. It’s all too easy to talk of the past – when Britannia ruled the waves, when almost every family knew a seafarer and when the Red Ensign flew on one-third of the world’s ships.
"The pessimists will tell you that the world is changing and global trade will suffer. I disagree. The world has never traded more. And whatever the peaks and troughs of economies and markets may be, the world will always need seafarers.
"Perhaps we no longer have the quantity of seafarers we once had however we do have the quality as is evidenced here today. And with ships getting larger and far more technologically advanced then it is this quality that will set us apart. Our training colleges are pioneering global maritime education; there is huge investment in facilities underway so cadets are experienced in the engine room or on the bridge before they even set foot on a ship. To those of us who were being trained in the 1980s, the thought of 360-degree simulators might seem like witchcraft! But for our young people and graduates today it is now the norm, and you are better seafarers for it.
"And as a result? We have some of the highest pass rates of any maritime nation in the world. Are our seafarers the cheapest? No, but are they the best? Absolutely and this quality will always win out.
"Now I don’t think anyone will have dressed up the life of a seafarer as being permanently easy. Being a seafarer is not like working in an office – but that’s probably why you chose it. Life at sea can be lonely. It is a fact. And we in the industry take that seriously.
"But we can look to Dr Winterbottom for inspiration. Because he did not create what was then known as the marine school alone. After his death, his closest friends ensured the school was a success.
"Friendship is something that you will value more and more as your careers progress. Now, I know the nightlife of this college is legendary, and no doubt you’ve enjoyed yourself immensely and made many great and lifelong friends.
"But you will live and work alongside other people and those friendships will be deeper and longer lasting than those enjoyed by people in almost any other profession. Make the most of that. But also look out for one another, ensure you are all safe and well and happy.
"I hope each and every one of you goes on to have a rewarding career in this industry. You are joining a great tradition and one of the best British traditions – going to sea. You will see the world and you will meet wonderful people and see some amazing things.
"And when you tire of seagoing life, there are some amazing opportunities in this industry ashore. Ship management, insurance, law, shipbroking, ports, academia, regulators and classification societies to name but a few, which all depend on the valuable skills you have learnt and will learn from the seagoing part of your career.
"This is an industry that does not care where you are from, what your background is. It is an industry that says if you are prepared to get your head down and work hard, you can get on and succeed. You can see the world, make lifelong friendships, rise up the ladder, make good money for yourself and live a good happy life.
"So welcome to the industry. Enjoy it. Learn from it. Work hard. And one day you may well receive such a wonderful honour as this fellowship," the chamber's CEO said in closing.
Sign up to the UK Chamber's Daily Briefing to receive stories like this - and more - direct to your inbox every day.