Master mariners proliferate within the maritime community. They are found within law firms, P&I Clubs, H&M insurers, in ship brokers, within flag administrations, international agencies and within many many other organisations. This is the case even though Oxbridge colleges churn out large numbers of incredibly able lawyers, maritime studies graduates are not scarce and neither are naval architects. It could be argued that a properly trained lawyer could investigate a maritime accident, a maritime studies graduate could manage the intricacies of a flag state and that a naval architect could undertake a satisfactory inspection. All of whom could be employed and yet companies and organisations actively seek to recruit Master Mariners. So the question that needs to be asked is simply this:
What does the Master Mariner contribute to this section of the maritime community?
The qualities of the Master Mariner:
A Master Mariner will have spent at least 10 years working at sea and studying for professional qualifications. They will have travelled to many different parts of the world and be used to working within a multi-cultural environment. They will also be used to taking responsibility and managing others from an early stage in their seagoing careers. All of this translates into a range of skills, experiences and abilities which are directly transferable to the shore side maritime community. These may be listed as:
Acceptance by shipboard staff:
Probably the most important aspect of utilising a Master Mariner is that they have a shared background with other seafarers. They have been through the same hardships and training and possess similar competency and experience. They speak the same technical language and comprehend the slang. All of this translates into a belief that a seafarer can trust a Master Mariner. Trust is a complicated issue which is built up of a number of factors including: a concept of shared values; a belief that they have a vested interest; a belief in the competence of the other; and a belief that the other cares about their welfare. Such aspects are mostly absent when seafarers communicate with many of the shore side authorities. This is particularly important when sensitive investigations are being undertaken in the aftermath of a casualty. There have been numerous instances when seafarers have not undertaken full disclosure of the details of the incident when interviewed by a lawyer. However, they have opened up and given a much fuller account when interviewed by a Master Mariner. There is a trust present due to the connection between seafarers which cannot be replicated by purely shore side personnel. Such a connection, based upon trust, can be of vital importance in the successful resolution of a claim.
Immediate grasp of technical aspects:
An individual who has completed the training and gained the experience necessary to successfully gain a Master Mariner’s certificate of competency is well versed in shipboard practice. Whether it is the use of radar or navigational systems, mooring arrangements or cargo systems, the Master Mariner will have such a knowledge of them that any discrepancies or omissions in a report may be identified. He will also be able to judge which actions were reasonable (and likely to be true) under the circumstances. Such an ability to spot the relevant issue greatly assists the rapid resolution of the problem and a reduction in time spent investigating an incident.
Furthermore, the Master Mariner will also have a comprehension of the practical pressures (both commercial and personal) that the seafarer is under. This enables the Master Mariner to relate to and understand the crew’s actions in a given situation.
A comprehension of the shipboard and port environment:
A Master Mariner has a comprehensive knowledge of the shipboard and port environment. He comprehends the process of access to a ship and the location of the bridge, ship’s offices and other important places would be located. Such knowledge is often underrated, but for the non-mariner, ships are disorientating, alien environments. Much precious time may be wasted wandering around the ship and in addition, ships and ports are dangerous working environments where the uninitiated may be at great risk.
Experience of working with different nationalities and within differing cultures:
For most of their seagoing working lives, Master Mariners have worked with a great number of different nationalities and within various cultures, both at sea and in port. From this the seafarer will have gained a comprehension of the need to be respectful and understanding of these differences and the requirement to work within any of their constraints. Such knowledge is then useful if investigating a claim or working in a different country.
The ability to manage people and take on responsibility:
From a very early point in their training, the Master Mariner will have taken on relatively large amounts of responsibility, including the management of people. Due to the differing cultures and nationalities of those people under their command, such management would be
A pragmatic and practical outlook:
The process of taking a ship to sea, maintaining her and ensuring the safe delivery of cargo requires a practical and pragmatic outlook. Such an outlook can be very useful in the resolution of claims.
Comprehensive life skills:
A Master Mariner will have taken approximately 10 years to gain their certificate of competency. During this time they will have amassed a considerable quantity of life skills.
A belief in life-long learning:
The process by which a person gains a Master’s certificate consists of sea time interrupted by periods of training in colleges. This process engenders a belief in life-long learning in the majority of Master Mariners. Life-long learning is a vital process to ensure that the people remain up-to-date
The contribution of the Master Mariner:
The contribution that the Master Mariner may make within the legal, insurance and administrative areas of the shipping industry should not be underestimated. They can make a significant difference to the smooth operation of claims, investigations and understanding of the shipboard environment. Furthermore, as they accept higher positions within a company, their practical and pragmatic outlook on work and their experience of managing people becomes a great asset to the success of the endeavour. In fact, an organisation working within the maritime industry would be remiss not to engage the services of a Master Mariner.