Student Stories content

Student Stories

Merchant Navy Officer Cadet student, Aidan

I am training to be a Deck Officer through the Merchant Navy Officer Cadet programme at the NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Shetland.

Why did you choose this career?

I veered off my intended career path as an Officer in the British Army to join the Merchant Navy.

Many of my close friends choose a career at sea varying from ferries to super yachts.  It was talking to them, that meant I could make the informed decision of a career at sea.   I chose the Deck Officer Cadet Programme as I desired the progression to Captaincy and the responsibility of command.

Did you have any reservations about your career choice?

I had been set for many years on a different career choice. For the most part, I was uncertain that a career at sea would give me the same fulfilment and satisfaction.

What kind of ships have you worked on, and where?

I have completed my sea time with North Star Shipping, an Emergency Response & Rescue Vessel (ERRV) and Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) company working primarily in the UK North Sea Oil Sector.    I have not been anywhere exotic, but stayed close to home, namely; Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh in Scotland, and Risavika and Agnotes in Norway.

I have sailed on both ERRV and PSVs with most of my time spent on Multi-Role vessels (ERRV & PSV duties) and PSVs.  PSVs utilise a system called Dynamic Positioning, which holds the vessel in position while she undergoes cargo operations providing equipment, fuel, fresh water - and many more supplies - to Offshore Installations.

I have had many experiences throughout my cadetship.  One, for example, was when I sailed on the Grampian Freedom, which at the time was a new Multi-Role ERRV operating in the Brae Field.  We underwent feasibility trials with a marine consultant for a new contract Marathon Oil had devised.  A first of its kind in the North Sea for an ERRV to share 3 Installations about 13.7 Nautical Miles apart. The trials followed a strict itinerary of day and night exercises with the ship, its Daughter Craft and Fast Rescue Craft to recover 20 dummies from the water in 7 days.  I gained first-hand experience of conducting search patterns and co-ordinating search teams from the bridge.

Another example, was when I sailed on the Grampian Talisker, a PSV with ERRV capabilities chartered by BP.  We helped a drilling rig called Paul B. Lloyd Junior demobilize, and escorted it as part of a convoy of three Anchor Handlers from West of Shetland to the Cromarty Firth.   It was great to sail so close to home, even spending several days sheltering from heavy weather east of Sumburgh Head.

Occasionally, I experienced the downside of working off-shore.  For example, 2 other cadets and I joined a vessel by Daughter Craft in Fraserburgh in April 2017.  One crew member became very ill overnight and later in the afternoon he was medevac’d to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where it was discovered that he had developed Type 1 diabetes. 

How do you feel you have been treated as a cadet in the working environment?

I feel that I've been treated, overall, incredibly well.   Working with multinational crews has been a challenge at times, but most of the people I have met have treated me equally and with respect. This goes into the college environment as well.   I have always found the monotonous grind of commuting to school or college and spending all day in the classroom laborious.  However, at the NAFC the atmosphere, kind hardworking nature of the staff and my fellow class mates made it more interesting.

What advice would you give to others considering a career at sea?

The experiences I've had already are a fraction compared to what I might yet experience in the rest of my career wherever it may take me.  You can work anywhere in the world with this ticket.  Get paid while you learn and have great job prospects.  The one thing I would say is that "you get out what you put it".  If you put in the effort and go the extra mile with your lecturers and fellow crew members, they will respond to your willingness to learn and will go that extra step in return.

Would you make the same career choice again?

It was such an important decision and I'm incredibly happy with my choice. I have been very determined to do well on the course, and put in a great deal of hard work, this has paid off and I am now reaping the benefits.  This would have been impossible if I had made a mistake with my career choice.  I look forward to the future and what I can achieve during my career. 


February 2018

The Merchant Navy Officer Cadet Programme trains Deck and Engineer Officers for the Merchant Navy.