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  • Bit of a strange one...

    Hi all,

    My first post here.

    I've got an interview with Steve from SSTG next week with a view to sponsorship for a deck cadetship.

    I'm a Brit working abroad, well-spoken, well-mannered and professional. 5"10, rugby forward build, great with people. Iron Maiden fan.

    Thing is, I'm 38. Is that too old?

    I've been in shipping my whole life, I did a BSc in Maritime Business and Maritime Law at Plymouth, did a year at a P&I Club in London, ten years as a shipping analyst for Lloyds Marine Intelligence Unit and OI including a year in Singapore, and have been a credit manager for four bunker suppliers/traders. I now live and work in Dubai and am group credit manager for one of the world's largest marine fuel suppliers/traders. I'm at the top of my field and an acknowledged shipping industry expert. I've done what I want to do ashore and having been divorced and paid off all my personal debt I find myself leaving my current employer and realising that now is the opportunity to go to sea which is what I have always wanted to do. I've made my mistakes, I've grown as a person, lost most of my ego and learned a lot about the world etc.

    The reason I want to get into it is not the money - the wages are a pittance compared to what I can and do earn in what I'm doing, and I've seen most of the world already as I've been lucky enough to travel very extensively in my career and personal life so far. So it isn't money, it isn't seeing the world and it isn't chasing this romantic dream of a life at sea as I am aware it isn't romantic at all and is extremely hard work and not in the slightest bit glamourous. If I wanted glamour I'd stay in Dubai!

    My questions are:

    1 - what is the usual experience of mature cadets? Do they find it more difficult?
    2 - as mentioned earlier, is 38 too old? If it takes 18-20 years to reach command I could/will be 61 before I could get a command. Would that rule me out of doing so? And if that is the case then would companies not see me as a worthwhile sponsor?
    3 - what disadvantages (if any) would I have to overcome in terms of the learning/training (on the basis I do get a sponsorship) vs younger cadets?
    4 - what is the hardest part of the training and what can do I do in advance to try to get out in front of it and prepare properly?
    5 - what kind of ships will MEF put you on?
    6 - Cruise would be the dream obviously as I am great with people and have experience of passenger ships as I went to sea with P&O as a cabin steward when I was at uni. I'd give my right arm for a cruise placement but I recognise that everyone thinks the same. Do MEF place with cruise companies and if so which ones?
    7 - at what stage do deck officers start to come ashore with ops/management jobs?
    8 - anyone have any experience with MEF that they can share, so I know what/where/when/why/how etc?
    9 - any hints or advice for the interview?
    10 - (the big one) what is the market like for British third officers once they complete the training? Is it a case of being priced out of the market by cheaper deck officer staff from outside of Europe who will do the job for 50% of your salary) and making jobs hard to find and difficult to keep as the owners/charterers/managers try to cut costs and cut them again etc? Is it as hard as it sounds?

    Thanks so much everyone.

    I really appreciate your advice. It is a scary thing I want to do, you have to really want it (I do) but you can never know too much about it you know?

  • #2
    Also...

    I'm fit and healthy, I do a 10km in an hour flat, did the London Marathon in 2013 and weights/MMA quite regularly.

    Are there any physical tests I need to pass, any fitness tests etc?

    CM

    Comment


    • #3
      1.
      Cannot speak of this per se, though I understand school leavers have a better time of jumping into the maths side of things.

      2.
      It wouldnt rule you out at all, your experience should make you more valuable to employers.

      3.
      Again, you might not be as used to the classroom environment as others.

      4.
      That depends, for some its the college side. For others its the sea time.

      5.
      I think its a bix mix

      6.
      Cant say I know

      7.
      Not an expert, pretty sure they look for Chiefs and Masters but im ready to be corrected.

      8.
      Cant say

      9.
      Be honest and be yourself. Steve has a good eye for bull. He doesnt really treat it as an interview and more of a talk where he will get to know how well suited you are for the role.

      10.
      To put it politely: crap.
      Theres an overabundance of junior officers from around the world, including the UK.
      Most places want experience while also not offering the chance to get it.
      My advice is to get a sponsor with a high chance of employment or dont get one at all.
      2/O Tankers

      Watch out for big green boxes...

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks Flobbernoggin.

        Do sponsoring companies offer sponsorships with guaranteed employment when you finish or is that not a thing?

        CM

        Comment


        • #5
          Not really.

          Some companies like Maersk are more likely to employ you at the end of your cadetship and apparently there are few times they havent done so.

          On the other hand there are some obvious tonnage tax companies who are there only to profit from you, a dig through this forum should highlight a few.
          2/O Tankers

          Watch out for big green boxes...

          Comment


          • #6
            If you want to work for p and o cruises then apply to CUK directly. Places are competitive but with your background and experience I would be very surprised if you weren't in with a very good chance. They regularly take older cadets, I've sailed with several in their 30s and 40s (they usually make better cadets). It's as close as you will get to a guaranteed job at the end and the training is very good (lot better than I had on cargo ships anyway). I only know of one cadet who wasn't offered a job post cadetship and that was performance related.

            Theres no real fitness requirements apart from the ENG1, but that's just a very general medical to make sure you won't keel over in the middle of the Pacific. They aren't going to make you run round the block or anything, its not the military (thankfully!).

            Comment


            • #7
              An impressive background, Dubai is my dream home!

              I can’t answer much of your questions as I’m not sure on the deck side of things but I can say there’s no difference given your age, we had cadets aged 16-40+, so you’ll fall within the average range.

              I would say given the current job market and your dream job of cruises... apply for a cruise cadetship. You’d sail through selection once they start recruiting again (twice a year for most of them normally) and you’d be guaranteed a job at the end with your company. I think your experience would end up wasted with the likes of SSTG/MEF as you’ll just be entering the “cadet training machine” where you’ll qualify with generic experience and generic education, most likely with a sponsor that has no interest in hiring you.

              Simplified: try and wait for Carnival, Princess etc to begin cadet selection; you’ll then be on your way to being a deck offficer on a cruise ship. If not you may find yourself jobless and struggling in 3 years.

              Comment


              • #8
                1 - what is the usual experience of mature cadets? Do they find it more difficult?
                Experience of mature cadets is wide ranging, I have met people who have come from seafaring backgrounds such as the Royal Navy as well as people who have never had any experience whatsoever of anything shipping related.
                As far as academic study is concerned, if you are willing to apply yourself there's no reason why you would find it any more or less difficult than younger contemporaries. You would need to make the decision yourself if you believe you'd be able to start studying again if you have not done so for a while. I do know a number of mature officers (in their late 30's and early 40's) who are now employed officers. I don't think studying is harder, you may just be out of practice.


                2 - as mentioned earlier, is 38 too old? If it takes 18-20 years to reach command I could/will be 61 before I could get a command. Would that rule me out of doing so? And if that is the case then would companies not see me as a worthwhile sponsor?
                It is in the interest of the sponsoring companies to take on Cadets/Trainees as it benefits them in a number of ways. If you have been employed before this demonstrates a maturity through experience that younger candidates fresh out of school or college won't have.
                If you have taken any higher education, night courses or even recreational study (e.g. Diver Certification, Motor Racing Licences) anything that requires commitment to a course of study then make sure it goes in your CV as this all demonstrates your self discipline.

                As far as command is concerned, the amount of time you would have to wait would depend on where you worked. For example you may be waiting a long time for promotion to Captain within a cruise ship company however promotion would be faster elsewhere (motor yachts, ferries, dredgers, etc). I have friends who started their cadetships at the same time as me (10 years ago) and took their Masters with me, who are now either 2nd in Command or are in Command of their respective vessels as they took the decision to move to companies that offer promotion faster.
                Command experience will then allow you to move to other companies with larger ships in a higher rank.

                3 - what disadvantages (if any) would I have to overcome in terms of the learning/training (on the basis I do get a sponsorship) vs younger cadets?
                I wouldn't say you'd be any more disadvantaged than anyone else just because of your age. You may find that younger Cadets fresh out of college or school are more easily able to slip back into the 'cramming for exams' habit than older Cadets are but this is all dependant on the person. If you think you need practice studying I'd suggest taking a course in your spare time on something you enjoy. Local night schools offer a wide range of relatively simple courses. (I, for example, took GCSE Higher Maths at night school to maintain my ability to study and mathematical knowledge).

                4 - what is the hardest part of the training and what can do I do in advance to try to get out in front of it and prepare properly?
                Different aspects of the cadetship as a whole put different pressures on different candidates so it's hard to say what is the 'hardest part.' In my experience the area I have noticed most mature Cadets struggle with is the expectation by the ships that despite your years you are still going to be starting from day 1, the same as everyone else. Some believe that they shouldn't be made to paint the ship or sand the rails or clean up oil or do the 'donkey work' as an exception will be made in their case since it's not their first job.
                Obviously this entirely depends on the person and you may have already thought of this, just worth bearing in mind!


                5 - what kind of ships will MEF put you on?
                MEF didn't exist when I was cadet, however from what I've seen, they're a mix.

                6 - Cruise would be the dream obviously as I am great with people and have experience of passenger ships as I went to sea with P&O as a cabin steward when I was at uni. I'd give my right arm for a cruise placement but I recognise that everyone thinks the same. Do MEF place with cruise companies and if so which ones?
                If you are after a cruise ship cadetship I would advise applying directly to Royal Caribbean International or Carnival UK directly. These are actual shipping companies as opposed to training agencies like MEF.
                As a cruise ship officer myself, I would say however that the reality of the job is that your main focus is not the 'Cruise' aspect it's the 'Ship' aspect, it's ok to love passenger ships but don't get into it unless you're interested in getting up every day in the middle of the night to sit on the Bridge in the dark for hours, or be very involved in maintenance of the deck and it's equipment, or lifeboats, or safety training and everything else we have to do!
                If you are not sponsored by a cruise ship company it's not the end of the world. Once you complete your cadetship (wherever it is) you are free to apply for whatever companies you want. Experience of other types of ships may make you more desirable so don't rule it out. I know a lot of people who started their cadetships on Tankers, Ferries, Ro-Ro's, Bulk Carriers, Container Ships, all who now work for cruise lines. If it's the job you like then there's no reason why you shouldn't end up where you want, even if it takes a few years.


                7 - at what stage do deck officers start to come ashore with ops/management jobs?
                Different jobs will present themselves at different times. If you want a shore job with the ability to progress into more senior positions I would recommend a Chief Mate certificate at a minimum, Masters are the most desirable candidates for the majority of senior management positions.

                8 - anyone have any experience with MEF that they can share, so I know what/where/when/why/how etc?
                ​Not personally, I'm afraid.

                9 - any hints or advice for the interview?
                Please come up with something more interesting than 'I would really like to travel!' I attend interviews periodically and it's not generally well received lol.

                10 - (the big one) what is the market like for British third officers once they complete the training? Is it a case of being priced out of the market by cheaper deck officer staff from outside of Europe who will do the job for 50% of your salary) and making jobs hard to find and difficult to keep as the owners/charterers/managers try to cut costs and cut them again etc? Is it as hard as it sounds?
                There is still a demand for British Officers given the advanced levels of training. The industry ebbs and flows with demand as with anything. Some people sit at home once qualified, if that's the case you need to get onto the recruitment agencies and make yourself available for ANYTHING so you start getting experience. If you're after more security try to apply directly to companies that guarantee a position at the end of their training. These will be shipping companies that operate their own ships as opposed to training agencies. Attending one of the Nautical Colleges open days is a good way of meeting the sponsors and finding out what their offering. Companies like BP, Shell, Carnival UK, Fred Olsen all own their own ships, so it's worth enquiring as to what they offer their trainee's.

                To boldly go.....
                Forum Administrator
                OfficerCadet.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks so much for the info guys. Much appreciated.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    On the age thing it really doesn't make a difference. I was over 30 when I started but had no issues. Going back to studying was a bit of a shock to the system but if you are decent at maths, or were in the past, then I don't see you struggling with any of the subjects. Most of us in the class found the only struggle with the studies was the number of exams per week. No individual exam was that difficult but having something like six in a week put the pressure on!

                    As for the most difficult aspect I would say it is being away for long periods. Some people love it, some people hate it. You won't know until you do it though.

                    Job market seems pretty tough. I and a few mates were lucky and got offered jobs just before we sat our orals but if it hadn't been for that I don't think there was much else going. My mate who had passed a year earlier than me was working for a supermarket for 11 months before getting his first job on a wind farm transfer boat. With your history though I really don't think you would have a problem getting a job.

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