From Cadet to….who knows where? ” the story written by David Hocking records his journey into the industry as a cadet, achieving his Officer of the Watch Certificate, together with the top-up Degree in Maritime Operations Management.

He can now look forward to the wide range of possibilities and career potential that the modern Maritime Industry can offer.

From Cadet to….who knows where?

By David Hocking

Looking back to where my seagoing career began; awaiting a decision within the striking Trinity House building in London that would offer me unique experiences and learning opportunities, I feel impressed and grateful at how much I have accomplished through the Trinity House Merchant Navy Scholarship Scheme over the 4 years of training I received. A balance of college terms, sea phases and distance learning gave me a chance to start a career in an exciting industry which has so much potential.

Arriving at Fleetwood Nautical Campus in 2010, I commenced the three year cadet course which would see me qualify as a Deck Officer of the Watch. During a first short term at college, we learnt the basics of ship design, cargo work and an array of other subjects which was to prepare us for our first trip to sea. Amongst the theory, there was an opportunity to get hands-on with first aid, sea survival techniques and firefighting courses which formed our basic safety training. It was then time to fly out to my first ship, an Aframax sized Tanker, joining in Genoa and sailing the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Joining with one other first trip cadet, we were introduced first hand to the world of shipping and the important role of the navigation officer whom I understudied during the 4 month trip, together with getting on well with the multi-cultured crew and of course, the paint brush. Opportunities for shore leave were surprisingly frequent for a large tanker and gave us a chance to explore the ports of Italy, Greece and the Black Sea.

A shorter stint on a Chemical Tanker saw us sailing across the rough winter North Atlantic where I soon found my sea legs, before settling into the calmer St Lawrence River and up to the Canadian Great Lakes. A couple of days stay in Montreal was a welcome break after the long crossing. We continued further inland, leaving the narrow canal and lock systems, along with a bit of the ship’s paint, behind us before steaming across Lake Ontario to Hamilton.
Returning to Fleetwood in November 2011, it wasn’t long before we were learning the art of Celestial Navigation, Meteorology and Maritime Law. The practices that we studied covered methods that have been used and refined through centuries of seafaring, from state of the art radio and satellite communication systems, to fixing the vessels positon using the stars and sun, to all the dots and dashes of the Morse code alphabet. Everything learnt during our time at college would form the underpinning knowledge that we could build our seagoing experience on.

Sea phase two started with a two month trip aboard the passenger ship MV Discovery, with daily calls to port and night time navigation, it gave me plenty of opportunity to brush up on my star sights and good mooring practices. I was able to visit a number of ports of the Mediterranean Sea which were a little more geared up for visitors than on my last call. When tendering, ferrying passengers from ship to shore was always a good chance to practice my boat handling skills, albeit a small one and, to the Staff Captains relief, one with plenty of fendering!

I was fortunate to be able to sail aboard a variety of vessel types and completed a four month voyage aboard a Geest Line Reefer Vessel serving the Caribbean to Portsmouth run. Loading general cargo in Portsmouth and Le Harve, we rolled our way down to warmer climates and calmer seas, travelling between 10 ports in 10 days, dropping off cargo and loading the holds full of banana’s! With containerisation having now almost taken over the role of general cargo and reefer ships, it was interesting to see the methods and type of work carried out on these vessels. With longer stays alongside, there was always time to squeeze in some shore leave, whether it was down to the beaches or a tour by one of the locals of his hometown.
With a final short trip on board a Condor Ferry travelling between the Channel Islands and Portsmouth; it was time to refine everything I had learnt as cadet and prepare for the final MCA exams, the most daunting of which was the Oral exam. Rules of the Road were repeated countless times, sextants and their errors were scrutinised and those radar plots that we had practiced with months ago were dug out. Our hard work, that of the college tutors, ship’s crew and sponsoring companies soon paid off!

With an Officer of Watch Certificate in my hand and Foundation Degree in Nautical Science, I postponed my first trip to sea and enquired to Trinity House about a ‘Top-up Degree’ at Warsash Maritime Academy where I could complete a BSc (Honours) Degree in Maritime Operations Management. Attending college for a 4 month period I studied a number of subjects including Maritime Law, Issues of the Modern Maritime Industry, Safety Management and Technology in the Maritime sector. This was followed by 12 months of distance, during which, I wrote a Dissertation on the Trinity House backed, eLoran System. Comparing it to current position fixing systems used in coastal water and port passages, I questioned Pilots from the Port of London, Deck Officers & Masters from a variety of different vessels and Company Management to ascertain how a system such as eLoran might be integrated into present day bridge teams the advantages it could have for navigational safety. The experimental work and enquiries which had already been completed by Trinity House was a useful source of information and reference point when doing my own research. By December 2014, I had completed the course and attended the graduation ceremony in November 2015 with other Graduates from the Southampton Solent University.

When applying for OOW positions in 2014, there was not an abundance of jobs for newly qualified Deck Officers. However, I am now sailing as 2nd Officer with scope to completing my Chief Mates and Masters qualifications in the near future. Together with the Degree in Maritime Operations Management, I look forward to the wide range of possibilities and career potential that the modern Maritime Industry can offer.