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Sailing in another direction: Elisa's story

15 January 2021

Elisa decided to move away from teaching and explore different career options working at sea after spending some time at sea on summer and Easter deployments with the University Royal Naval Unit


What made you choose to pursue a career in shipping?


I decided to pursue a career in shipping after being part of the University Royal Naval Unit whilst studying at university. After spending some time at sea on summer and Easter deployments, I decided to move away from teaching and to explore different career options working at sea. A friend who was in the middle of their cadetship explained how it all worked and recommended that an energy company is the best place to get your training, so I applied to the bp cadets programme.

 What parts of your bp cadetship did you enjoy most?


The parts I enjoyed were meeting new people at college and on the different ships that I sailed on. I enjoyed learning about all the different elements that make up a deck officer. I enjoyed the practical element of short courses and the practical element of the sea time you have to complete. My main challenge was the continuation of education in another area because I had just spent four years doing a teaching degree. People around me were expecting me to make my way down that career path not to go back into education for another three years.

 What challenges have you come across?


My most challenging situation was sailing with someone who I had a difference of opinion to. You have to learn to get on with others, adapt and live and work with people amicably.

 What are the most exciting parts of working onboard? 


I was also fortunate enough to see some amazing scenes, bioluminescence, sunrises, sunsets and the night sky as you have never seen it before. Mother nature in all her forms that wild-life people pay for. One time, we launched the lifeboat and rescue boat and a school of dolphins came and played with the boats; you could put your hand out of the rescue boat and touch them. The most exciting part of the job is the sign off from a ship; it’s the day everyone looks forward to and it feels like Christmas.

 What’s the social life like onboard?


Each ship has a bar, swimming pool and an outdoor area where, depending on the weather, people will meet in the evenings to socialise. There are horse racing and karaoke nights, which most crew members like to get involved with. Each ship has a sat phone you can use to call your family. Everyone misses their friends and family, but there are enough ways to keep in touch with them while you are away. You get an internet allowance so you can keep up to date with what’s happing at home.

What have you done since qualifying?


Since qualifying, I was offered a position of third officer. The position offered was based on my performance and availability. Now, my typical trip lengths are 2.5 to 3.5 months with 23 days leave for every month worked.


I hold either the 8-12 watch or the 12-4 watch. My main responsibilities are watch-keeping and looking after the LSA equipment onboard. When in port, I help with the mooring and unmooring of the vessel and then hold a cargo watch ensuring the loading/unloading of cargo is done safely and adhering to all regulations.

 What skills do you think you need to succeed as a cadet and officer?


The skills I think you need to succeed are being able to listen and take on constructive criticism. Having good initiative and being able to work well on your own, and as part of a team, is also important. You’ll need a basic level of fitness and resilience because when away you are working seven days a week for months at a time.

 What next - do you have career ambitions for the future?


My next goal is to complete my chief officer’s qualification, which hopefully I will complete this year.


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