Tim graduated with a BSc Nautical Studies from the University of Plymouth and completed an NVQ Level 3 in Marine Vessel Operations in the same year. (This BSc/NVQ route has now been replaced by the FdSc Marine Studies.) He is currently a second officer onboard cruise ships.
My initial passion was for the weather, but having visited the University of Plymouth I discovered that a career at sea would be more rewarding in the long term and still allow me the chance to work with the weather.
Choosing the degree was easy. The next step was to find a sponsoring company, so I contacted the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) who provided me with a list of companies that offer sponsorship programmes. From the list I chose six companies to whom I sent a CV and application. Only my current company responded and invited me to an assessment/interview a few weeks later. The assessment and interview was spread across two days where I was given a series of challenges followed by an in-depth interview with the cadet manager. A week later I received a phone call saying they would like to offer me a degree sponsorship.
My first year at university was spent like any normal student. However, during the Christmas and Easter vacation I had to complete my NVQ in Marine Vessel Operations. During this time I also completed a series of short courses in firefighting, first aid and sea survival. Then, during the summer, I went away to sea for two months as a deck cadet onboard the cruise ship ‘Oriana’, putting my learning into practice while sailing around the Mediterranean Sea.
I then returned to university for my second year. The third year was spent entirely at sea, similar to a placement year, before returning to Plymouth for my final year. After my final university exams I had to sit a series of NVQ assessments before I was able to sit my Maritime and Coastguard Agency oral examination. This is equivalent to sitting your driving test, except I was being tested on how to drive some of the largest ships in the world.
I successfully passed this oral exam and was duly qualified as an officer of the watch, where I am responsible for the safe navigation of the ship and the safety of all the passengers and crew onboard. My daily work includes holding a bridge watch consisting of four hours on the bridge followed by eight hours' rest. Other duties include lifeboat inspections and maintenance, passage planning, crew safety trainings and safety rounds.
Working on cruise ships has allowed me to see the world and a wealth of interesting ports. The job has its challenges with new ports, extreme weather conditions and the variety of people you meet. Every day is different yet exciting.
I recently passed the NVQ Level 4 in Marine Vessels, which allowed me to sit the Chief Mates oral examination. I can now hold the post of senior officer and the rank of second in command onboard any size ship in the Merchant Navy.
My advice to anyone looking into this career is to research the wide variety of training routes available. The Merchant Navy Training Board will have all the information you need and will also answer any questions you have.
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