Name: Catherine Caseman
Year of study: Phase 4 (I started in September 2017 so starting 3rd year!)
Course: FdEng Marine Electrical and Electronic Engineering, ETO CoC
Job Title: ETO Cadet
Sponsored by: BP
What ships have you sailed on?
British Osprey: Aframax Crude Oil Tanker
British Century: Suezmax Crude Oil Tanker
British Engineer: Product Tanker (which I am currently on)
What does world maritime day mean to you? (This year’s theme is empowering women, what does this topic mean to you)?
World Maritime Day is described by the UN as being an official UN day which highlights the importance of shipping to the world. The IMO has a commitment to strive towards achieving the sustainable development goals; one of which is gender equality with the aim to: “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.
It is noted by many that the IMO’s promotion of female seafarers in the shipping industry is not about exclusively supporting women or supporting women at the expense of men but reducing gender imbalance.
In terms of “empowering women”, I have been fortunate to have met some incredible female seafarers in my cadetship, yet something I have noticed is that there are few female senior officers in my company.
It is encouraging to see the posts on the Instagram account/Facebook page “Women in Maritime” who have a daily feature on a female seafarer including her story and photos. I feel this goes some way to highlighting the achievements of other women at sea globally and is truly inspirational to read their backgrounds and achievements.
I would like to highlight the effort that my company has gone to in order to make female seafarers feel welcome and included. Annually, we meet in the London office and bring forward issues unique to our experiences and they are then taken further and resolved. This year we had some tailor-made training in response to points brought forward the previous year which was incredibly beneficial. This was followed by a talk given by Helene Peter-Davies an inspirational figure who is both a Master Mariner and a Solicitor who now works in London for a boutique law firm.
What inspired you to pursue a career at sea?
When I finished my bachelor’s degree I was looking for a job which was out of the ordinary and would allow me to be hands on and not confined exclusively to desk work. The work to leave ratio appeals greatly to me as I enjoy travelling and I feel that once qualified I would be able to pursue this hobby further both at work and in my leave.
How would you describe working at sea?
It is certainly a unique environment! In the oil industry, cargo orders are cancelled or rearranged all the time depending on the markets which means we can be sent anywhere in the world for an order, whereas I imagine working on cruise ships or on container ships, things are slightly more planned.
It is also unusual that you spend both your working time and free time with the same people for several months and can lead to unique stresses. However, there is a good atmosphere and morale is usually good on board with both socialising in the bar or going to the gym options for relaxing after work.
How does it feel to work in a multi-cultural environment?
In BP’s European fleet we have British, Irish and Polish officers with Filipino crew. There is a good atmosphere of inclusivity on BP vessels and I have found that everyone gets on well regardless of nationality.
How did you find yourself in a career at sea?
I was looking at careers in preparation for graduating from university and I was fortunate to have experienced a lot of travel and practical work in my degree which I was keen to continue in my work. My grandfather was a Merchant Seafarer during the 50s and 60s and so I knew that the Merchant Navy existed, but I’d never previously thought about exploring it as an occupation for myself as I had been initially considering a career in the forces. I discovered BP’s cadetship page by accident one evening and immediately filled in the application form. A few months later I was informed that I was to progress to attending an assessment centre for interview and in view of my performance was subsequently informed I had been successful.
What enticed you to apply for a cadetship?
I had considered other careers directly related to my degree, however they didn’t appeal to me in the way that seafaring did. Additionally, the wages in other graduate roles were not excellent and were comparable to that which I earn as a cadet now. The bonus, of course, is that in doing this I get an extra academic qualification (FDEng) for the three years of training to become an ETO and once I pass my orals, I will also have an internationally recognised ticket.
In your current role, what are your main responsibilities?
I am in my second trip as an ETO cadet and have been given more responsibility as my experience progresses. In terms of independent work, I now create the permits to work and isolation certificates for our daily work, do the departmental weekly routines on a Saturday (battery inspections, radio inspections, fridge alarms, fire detector testing etc), do the daily ICCP MGPS log in the mornings, maintain the lighting on board amongst some other small tasks. Mostly, I spending my time shadowing the ETO around and observe or participate in the jobs depending on what they are.
What do you enjoy the most about working on a ship?
I think one of the best aspects of seafaring is that there is nothing else quite like it. The work can be challenging in varying ways. I particularly enjoy the crossover in my work across the departments where you can be working on engine room plant one moment, and fault finding on the bridge equipment the next.
What skills and knowledge have you learnt/applied from studying at the marine school?
I last studied physics and maths in 2009 and therefore picking up electronics, mechanics, thermodynamics and engineering mathematics was initially a challenge.
In phase 1 the tuition was designed to ensure you had a basic knowledge to go to sea which would then be developed. Phase 3 has been more in-depth and has given me more background knowledge to enable me to understand what I am doing and why far better. For example, it has been especially useful to have been taught the module on control theory as I am able to apply what I have learned on this trip.
What did you enjoy the most about your cadetship?
I particularly enjoyed the beginning of phase 3 and having last summer in South Shields. At this point, the academics was beginning to click with the practical side as we’d just completed our first sea phase and we’d all moved out of halls into our own houses giving us more independence than phase 1.
What would you say to others who are considering a career at sea?
I would highly recommend it. Not only is seafaring a rewarding career in itself, but if your priorities change over time it is definitely a ticket to other careers both in and out of the maritime sector.
As the maritime industry can be male-dominated, what would you say to women, who are considering a career at sea?
Women make up 1-2% of the world’s seafarers, with 1.25 million women serving on 87,000 vessels (IMO, 1992) so it is indeed safe to say that the maritime industry is male dominated. Arguably, the tide is increasingly turning with regards to the quality of life on board for women, especially in the cruise industry. The work is not yet done, which is why the focus on empowering women as a theme for World Maritime Day is so crucial and that the momentum of campaigning for change continues.
A study included in the Women Seafarers’ Health and Welfare Survey showed that 98% of female seafarers work either on cruise ships or ferries, making tankers, container ships etc very sparsely populated by other women. If this is likely to be an issue I suggest that when choosing your company this should be taken in to consideration.
Any advice for future cadets?
- For ETOs or Engineers I highly recommend borrowing these from the library or getting your own copy of the following:
- Practical Marine Electrical Knowledge by Dennis Hall
- Ship Automation for Marine Engineers and ETOs by Alexandr Yakimchuk
- Engineering Mathematics by John Bird (or any of John Bird’s books!)
- Definitely consider applying for a student loan (maintenance loan) to help with living costs during your cadetship.
- Whenever the opportunity for shore leave presents itself, always take it.
Will you be undertaking any more training with South Shields Marine School?
I am considering a top-up to BEng Marine Electrical and Electronic Engineering.