Who's navigating? A ‘real’ way of life: enjoying the rewards and challenges of a career at sea

01 Jun 2013 The Navigator

In this series, The Navigator speaks to current navigational personnel about their motivations, careers to date and thoughts for the future. Under the spotlight this issue is Officer Cadet Thomas Chitseko, who is currently undergoing final preparations for his orals examinations.

Name: Thomas Chitseko
Current position: Officer Cadet

What interested you in a career at sea?
Seafaring is a way of life: a vocation rather than a job. This appealed to me as, having tried a couple of 9-5 jobs, I realised that I wanted my work to be an integral part of my life, not something that I did in order to pay for my ‘real’ life at the weekends. The opportunities to travel and to spend my youth doing something other than looking at a computer screen were also strong motivators.

What career path has led to your current position?
I studied International Relations at the London School of Economics in the UK and worked in e-commerce and for a corporate communications consultancy for a while before coming to sea.

Where do you see your career going from here?
I hope to complete my training and take up an appointment as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) deck officer over the next twelve months. The unique role of the RFA provides developmental opportunities that tally closely with what I want to get out of my career at this stage.

What’s the most important aspect of being a watch-keeping officer?
It’s crucial that watch-keeping officers are instilled with a sense of professionalism corresponding with the responsibilities that they hold. The mission of The Navigator to develop and promote the professional identity of the modern OOW, is a vital one.

What are the greatest rewards of your life at sea?
I have enjoyed the opportunity to get ashore in some exotic places and to develop my understanding of the world. I’ve also met some interesting and entertaining old (and younger) salts at college and aboard the ships on which I have sailed. This said, it is the expectation of taking responsibility for driving ships, and the motivation that this provides to become a capable OOW, with all that this entails which, has been the greatest reward of my time at sea so far.

What do you think are the greatest challenges for future navigators?
Getting heard ashore. We are living at a time where technological advancement should be making navigation more safe and effective than it has ever been. However, partly due to the fragmentation of the maritime sector and substantially due to the distance imposed by working at sea itself, the feedback mechanisms for getting lessons from the coal-face of seafaring integrated into the regulations, training and technology that will shape the future of the industry are not, in my opinion, all that they could be.

Getting heard ashore is the greatest challenge. feedback mechanisms for getting lessons from the coal-face of seafaring integrated into the regulations, training and technology… are not all that they could be