One of the questions that people often get asked is what they would change about their life or career if they had the chance. All too often people may answer they would like to travel more, they would like to have experienced a little more adventure or excitement, or to meet people of different cultures (and no, I don’t mean Evertonians).
Thankfully when you choose a career in shipping, all these things and more are waiting to be discovered.
I was always going to go away to sea. It was pretty inevitable, as I am from a family with a very long history in the industry. All told, 8 generations have all sailed out of Liverpool across the centuries, and apparently my great, great Grandfather had a pet monkey. No, really.
So it was that in 1990, wracked with nerves, I joined my first ship – and off I went around the world. I served on bulk carriers, dredgers and even looked after lighthouses off Scotland. Most of my time at sea was spent laying and repairing submarine telecommunications cable. In fact I was part of the team which laid the first dedicated internet cable between the USA and UK…so when you download your movies from Netflix you have me and my fellow seafarers to thank! Shipping is not just about moving containers or tankers full of oil.
While I enjoyed most of my time at sea, and there are many tough challenges, it was only ever intended to be a stepping stone to a career in the wider industry. So after a decade working at sea I made the next step and came ashore. I went to Liverpool John Moores University and completed a BSc (Hons) in Maritime Studies.
Having seagoing experience and a degree was a real stepping stone, and I was soon being offered amazing opportunities. In a few years I had worked in maritime fraud investigations and within a marine insurer, working with shipowners to ensure they were doing all possible to keep their seafarers, cargoes and vessels safe and secure.
I have found the shipping industry to be an incredibly vibrant and welcoming place – and if you are willing to work hard, if you care about what you are doing and if you want to succeed, then there are few better places to work.
In the past couple of years my career has taken turns even I did not expect. I’ve been around the world checking that marine training centres and colleges are up to standard, and have written a number of text books on maritime issues. I have also set up a professional body for Dynamic Positioning Operators and have been involved in helping to tackle global piracy.
You may have seen Captain Philips and wondered why the ship wasn’t really that well protected against pirates, and you would be right. So I have been working to ensure that shipowners and private maritime security companies work together to provide the right levels of security onboard and even armed guards when necessary.
Having worked to ensure that shipping is protected it made me realise the importance of the industry, so still with my maritime focus, I completed my Masters (MSc) degree in Communications and Public Relations. The next phase of my career is all about turning my seagoing experience into another area of the industry, that of ensuring the reputation and visibility of shipping.
The shipping industry has provided me with a career that has not just been about a job or turning up to an office, it has been so much more. It has provided a chance to learn, to travel and to grow into the challenges I am passionate about.
I have recently returned “home” to Merseyside, and I can see amazing growth and energy in and around Liverpool. The port and shipping are a massive and major part of that progress and development.
So what would I do if I had my chance to shape my career again? The truth is I would do pretty much the same again – sure I would have revised more and maybe watched more sunsets, but I am still reaping the rewards of an industry that can give those who work in it so much, and I would recommend that to anyone.