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Seeing it for himself: Ellio's story

Published:
18 January 2021

Ellio had heard a lot of stories from his family of seafarers growing up and decided he wanted to see it for himself

What made you choose to pursue a career in shipping?

 

From a very young age, I have been immersed in marine life. Many of my family are seafarers, so prior to starting my cadetship I had been on a variety of vessels. I had also heard a lot of their stories and wanted to see for myself. It also seemed like a great career with clear progression and not to mention a very healthy salary.

 What is it like living at sea?

 

It is hard to understand what a cadetship is like and how you will personally cope with it, especially when at sea. There is no way to really prepare you for what it is like until you are there which makes it very daunting. Living at sea is definitely challenging. You are away from home so will, unfortunately, miss life events and time with friends and family. That being said, life at sea does provide you with a great routine. Day to day you have a set schedule (unless something unexpected happens), which once acclimatised makes time pass by rather fast.

So far, I have completed two voyages on a product tanker for three months and the other on an LNG carrier for just over five months. I am now due to return to college to finish the final part of my foundation degree as well as my orals.

 What do you find exciting about your role?

 

For me, the most exciting part of my role as an engineer cadet would have to be to start and finish a job; whether it be a repair or maintenance. It’s especially great doing things for the first time as a cadet because I have always had the support and guidance from an experienced officer. Highlights have to be working on the main engine and diesel generators - you can’t help but be impressed by their sheer size and value.

 What’s the social life like on board?

 

Socially the ship is what you make of it. You can be either solitary or social depending on how you are feeling. After work, you can go to the social areas, or just chill in your cabin. The social life on board for me has been great and I’ve really enjoyed it. After work, I love going to sundowners to unwind after a hard day. Dinner is served at 6pm and afterwards, I would normally try to do some reports for an hour. I then generally go to the bar, or the cinema room, to see what people are up to, or play a card game or some foosball. I found it was best to make to most of the social side of things as it made the trip more enjoyable and miss home less.

How do you find being away from friends and family for long periods?

 

If you want to see the world, I would say that the merchant navy isn’t what it once was. The time in port has reduced, especially on the gas ships where port stays are typically just under a day. There isn’t really time to visit and get to know a place. This is worsened by the fact that ports aren’t determined well in advance and you may even go a month between ports. This means in a three-month trip you may only get three shore leaves.

It is hard being away from home, however, you do get a daily phone call and internet allowance so getting in contact is no issue. For me, it was best to just to stay in the moment being on ship rather than constantly checking my phone or calling home all the time.

How have you found your studies?

 

In the FD engineering course, you need eight months at sea; this is split into two phases. My first phase at college was more of an introduction to the course/career, completing workshop skills and necessary short courses. The second phase was at sea; this is an introduction to the career and is definitely the toughest phase as everything is so new. You then return to college for a year and complete most of your academic work.

 

Do you visit any of the locations you pass through whilst at sea?

 

If you want to see the world, I would say that the merchant navy isn’t what it once was. The time in port has reduced, especially on the gas ships where port stays are typically just under a day. There isn’t really time to visit and get to know a place. This is worsened by the fact that ports aren’t determined well in advance and you may even go a month between ports. This means in a three-month trip you may only get three shore leaves.

In my past trip, passing through the Panama Canal was definitely a highlight and something very few have experienced.

 Tell us more about a typical workday?

 

The role of a cadet is to learn as much as possible to make you the best possible officer. My workday starts at 8:00am where the second engineer runs through the jobs that are going out throughout the day. Typically, I would attach myself to an officer who was doing the most interesting job. Often, I would do the fourth engineer’s job as these are the jobs which, when qualified, I would be partaking in. I would also assist the duty engineer on occasion; this is in preparation of becoming a watchkeeper. Lunch hour is at 12noon with smoko (half an hour break) at 10:00am and 3:00pm. The workday finishes at 5:00pm and any alarms after this will be answered by the duty engineer.

What happens at the weekends?

 

Saturdays are a half-day. In the morning, the weekly routines are completed. In the afternoons you can chill in the pool, catch some rays, watch a film or catch up on sleep. Sundays is a study day for cadets, this is where you can catch up on work and complete reports for your TRB (Training record book).

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

 

You need to be very resilient. You need to be driven and motivated. You need to have a positive outlook and make the most of every situation.

Where do you see yourself long term?

 

I personally don’t see myself working at sea in the long term. I would like to get my bachelor’s degree and move to a shore-based job.

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