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2013-04-25 CHANGING THE FACE OF SHIPPING ONE CADET AT A TIME

Managing some 150 cadets on behalf of SAMSA, Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA), Marine Crew Services and some Angola, Collins beams when she talks of the 96 percent success rate being achieved by the cadets at sea, especially our lady cadets. 

“If you’ve got a 96 percent success rate then something is working,” she smiles. 

The challenge of finding cadet berths has long been a burden for South African and African seafaring trainees in general,  but MCS has been successfully networking and negotiating berth space with international shipowners to assist as many cadets with seatime as possible.

“We have to find berths and that’s just what we keep doing,” she says adding that they do not partner with fly-by-night operators. 

“We will source berths with reputable ship operators and managers that have a quality safety management system and a sound code of working practices,” she says.

“We have to arrange SAMSA accreditation of each and every company providing us with cadet berths and they in turn implement our cadet on board training on their vessels in accordance with our MCS cadet training programmes which are also accredited by SAMSA. ”

Employment opportunities

Collins has identified the oil and gas industry as a potentially large employer of African cadets and reports that many of her cadets have gained invaluable experience on anchor handlers and tramping tankers.

“By the time they come off tankers and anchor handlers often at remote ports they, not only have had exposure to different work experiences on board different classes of vessels, but also using different modes of travel and how you get from one part of the world to the other, and working with different nationalities,” says Collins highlighting the real value in furthering the learning experience and life skills for a career at sea. 

Collins describes further the success they have had in placing many of the female cadets on anchor handlers.  “This year we will see a large number of graduates and they will have done most of their seatime in the oil and gas industry,” she said.

“Let’s face it, we are looking for jobs at the end of the day and we have the oil and gas industry on our doorstep. We can take these youngsters with anchor handling training, put them through dynamic positioning (DP) courses and they are immediately marketable,” says Collins who points out that Unique Hydra has a DP simulation training centre in Cape Town that is easily accessible to our deck officer candidates.

“It’s a case of: here is a professional Officer of the Watch and he/she has a DP certificate, was trained and brought up in the oil and gas industry and  speaks English – how much more do you want?” she asks emphatically.

Clearly passionate about placing her cadets in worthwhile positions, Collins aims to see as many of them as possible gain valuable seatime on anchor handling tugs with DP capability and thereafter complete the basic and advanced DP courses.

“In my view a familiarisation tour on a large ocean going vessel such as the Agulhas is certainly a useful entry point for first trip cadets.  However it would not be a prudent cadet who just wants to serve seatime on one class of vessel because they are not are not going to be as marketable,” she warns adding that it is always beneficial to gain broader sea-going experience and to specialise in a sector such as the oil and gas industry where jobs do exist.

“The stark reality is that we are going to send you into darkest Africa on a anchor handling tug where you are going to be out at anchor and you are not coming ashore.   So many will take to it and some will not.”

Cadet challenges

It’s been proven that life at sea is not for everyone, but Collins aims to instill a sense of maturity in her cadets that will help them engage with the challenges that they face.

Collins admits that sourcing cadet berths with international shipowners for our female cadets is a challenge, but that they are becoming their own ambassadors and, through their success, will promote the female South African deck and engineering cadets for future intakes.

On board she encourages them to try to connect with their designated training officers in a way that shows them that they are motivated to learn, and can fit in well on board. 

She admits, however, that some training officers are more engaged in the process than others and that different languages obviously also plays a part.

“People are so different you know – some will want to pass on all their knowledge and take the time and effort to guide and mentor,” she says adding that we are dependent on the officers on board to actually train the cadets.

Collins believes that the attitude of the cadet plays a role in establishing the attitude of the trainer. She advises her cadets to also take an interest in the background and the training upbringing of the trainers on board as well as to ask questions about their country, culture and to even learn a few words in their language.

“Cadets have to understand that the world is made up of mixed crews, mixed nationalities and that this should make the experience interesting. Discipline, discipline, discipline and the right attitude are crucial,” she says.

Graduating successes

“We will see two of the SAMSA ladies graduate before the end of March,” says a clearly proud Collins who adds that about 60 percent of the SAMSA intake will graduate with their Officer of the Watch certificates shortly.

Collins also reports that they hope to see their first African tug master take command of a vessel soon.

“We believe that he is ready for promotion,” she says explaining that she has walked the journey with him since their mutual days at Safmarine. “He now works for RK Offshore and earned his Masters Certificate last year.”

Future intakes and projects

With another 35 new entrant cadets on their books and ready to take up cadetships, Collins says that these youngsters will be rotated into the system as other cadets finish their sea time.

“Any new entrants will join the SA Agulhas to do a familiarisation tour before being placed in the real world of oil and gas!” she says. 

Highlighting the plight of many other cadets who have not found funding sponsorship, Collins is actively pursuing TETA funding for MCS to be able to help other youngsters get to sea to pursue their chosen career.

She is presently waiting for confirmation from TETA in this regard, but also hopes to be able to access funding for ratings. “We will do the recruitment and find the berths for the training,” she says aiming to drive a recruitment campaign to identify potential candidates.

Since 2004 MCS, and Deanna Collins in particular, has stepped up to source and provide viable cadet training berth options for South African cadets.

Today she is working and guiding other strategic initiatives that will “see a positive impact on the future development of the maritime industry pool of seafarers” and it is clear that Collins remains completely focused on her mandate to create a clear path for those aiming to progress from Cadet to Mate and Master or from cadet to Second and Chief Engineer respectively, but also to promote the training of artisans in all disciplines  for the maritime shore based support required for the industry.

 

(Source - MARITIME REVIEW Africa: February 2013)