Who's navigating? Shiphandling in action

01 Feb 2018 The Navigator

Chief Officer Chris Lamperts describes his career path so far and gives his thoughts on the skills needed for safe and effective shiphandling.

What interested you in a career at sea?
Before being accepted into the US Merchant Marine Academy, I had my sights set on an apprenticeship with a local machinist and eventually taking over his shop and clientele. During my first year at the academy, however, my career aspirations shifted from engineering to logistics and intermodal transportation. I was still interested in engineering, but what attracted me to a career in the deck department was the dynamic nature of managing oil tanker and terminal operations. I can't think of any conventional career path that would keep my interest in a similar way.

What career path has led to your current position?
As well as my time as a cadet at the academy, I've served on various vessels with Chevron since 2005. My continuous service has been rewarded with some unique and valuable opportunities, including operational experience on product/chemical tankers and our crude oil lightering trade. I also undertook a shore-based assignment at Chevron's global headquarters, where I helped develop a robust competency assurance and assessment system and training courses that are in use today.

What are the greatest rewards from your life at sea?
The variability of day-to-day life at sea definitely keeps things from getting stagnant. The rigour (and occasional frustration) of having so many different roles and managing such a diverse range of operations, challenges, resources and changing environments has continued to better equip me for each evolution of my career.

How did you learn your shiphandling skills?
I've benefitted from multiple methods of learning throughout my time at sea. These include studying industry standard guidance, professional reference publications and independent online resources, as well as using full mission bridge simulation equipment and receiving one-on-one coaching and mentoring from experienced and accomplished shiphandlers. Add to that good old hands-on practice in conning the vessel in open ocean and pilotage waters under the supervision of the ship's Master or licensed Pilots.

What do you think is the most important shiphandling skill to get right?
There are many elements to shiphandling that are high on the list of importance. The one that stands out to me, however, is turning. Knowing how your vessel turns and understanding the hydrodynamic forces that embody WHY your vessel handles the way it does can mean the difference between saving the day or having a bad experience. Knowing your stopping distances also goes hand-in-hand with turning. Together, these skills define how effectively the vessel can be handled during normal, abnormal and emergency circumstances.

What have you found most difficult about it and why?
During my time in the industry, I don't think I've met two professional mariners who share the same philosophy or ‘style’ of shiphandling. While they may all share the same broad objectives, each individual has a different speciality, subject matter awareness or zeal for one aspect or another of their craft. This is to be expected, but when different facets of each style don't mesh well, or flat out conflict with each other, putting the puzzle together can get very challenging!

Name: Chris Lamperts
Current position: Chief Officer, Chevron
Training: US Merchant Marine Academy