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Thirty years on – the Maritime London Officer Cadet Scholarship

by Michael Grey

Posted on: 25 October 2022

It was thirty years ago that a particularly thoughtful Lloyd’s underwriter Jonathan Jones became concerned at the number of shipping casualties which were being attributed to human error. It was also a period where the number of cadets entering the UK shipping industry was at a low level, which boded ill for future sea skills and the obvious consequences for marine safety. Additionally, he considered the wider implications of the shortage, thinking of the number of careers in the maritime infrastructure ashore which drew on the experience of former seafarers. From where, some years down the line, would this vital experience be found?

From this evident need, identified by Jonathan Jones, the Lloyd’s Officer Cadet Scholarship scheme emerged. It was designed to train the officers of tomorrow, funded by the Lloyd’s market, which of course would itself have been exposed to all these marine casualties. The scheme, as designed thus became something of a virtuous circle. It was to eventually become associated with Maritime London and it was as the Maritime London Officer Cadet Scholarship scheme it celebrated its 30th birthday in London recently. More than 100 officer cadets have been enabled to qualify as certificated officers under the scheme and some have, as anticipated, moved into shore side careers in a wide range of maritime fields, some now at senior levels.

Speaking at the event, which was attended by a number of former cadets and sponsors of the scheme, the MLOCS Chairman Tony Vlasto spoke of the ongoing need for competent officers as the importance of shipping remains crucial. There was a current seafarer shortage of some 26,000, putting safe ship operation at risk and good quality training was as important as ever. It was also a fact that training costs money, which many people entering the profession just don’t have, so sponsorship helps to “plug the gap” and enable them to have the life-changing experience offered by a sea career. He also noted that the sponsors of the scheme support their own industry, help to create safer seas and in doing so enhance their ESG credentials.

The Chairman also thanked sponsors Chris Adams, Carisbrooke Shipping, Chiltern Maritime/Viking Group, the Maria Tsakos Charitable Foundation, Reed Smith LLP, The North P&I and the Company of Watermen and Lightermen and their clerk Julie Lithgow.

A number of former cadets at the event spoke warmly of their experiences. Fiona Scrimgeour, currently BP Shipping’s Operations Lead, Marine Production & Operations – North Sea Region suggested that her cadetship, which also facilitated her First-Class Honours degree in Merchant Ship Operations and Officer of the Watch certificate was a huge draw. The things she learned in her initial sea experience; the people skills and life experiences were, she said, “the best introduction to working life she could have had”.

Rob Crees, who is currently Senior Vice President & Commercial Counsel at World Fuel Services Corporation, spoke of the many advantages his seagoing experience gives him; mariners, he said “think outside the box”, think on their feet and solve problems. He was grateful for the broad experience on multiple vessel types provided during his cadetship. One of the very first cadets – he was actually the third to be sponsored, Rob Crees qualified with combined deck and engineer certificates and then sailed as a deck officer in the offshore oil and gas sector, before reading law at university. He has since been a lawyer in private practice and counsel at two International Group P&I Clubs, and has spent the past decade at an investment bank and in shipping and energy trading roles. He emphasises the huge value of seagoing experience and the credibility it provides.

As a slightly more mature entrant, Fiona Rush was grateful for the flexibility of the MLOCS in granting her a scholarship. Now working as an operations manager with Frontline oil tankers, her career, which began with service on nine different types of vessel, saw her win a safety award and, while serving with Shell, working in South Korea on a new build, which was to become the world’s largest LNG carrier.
Currently serving at sea as Second Officer on a P&O Cruise ship in the Carnival Fleet, Joe Douglas qualified in 2018, following three years sponsored by Maritime London member JLT, in which he served in the Irish Lights tender Granuaile, Windstar’s Wind Surf and a several Carnival ships. After he qualified and time spent with Stena and Windstar, he has opted for cruise ships and currently serves aboard P&O’s Britannia. With his Chief Mate certificate behind him, he looks forward to gaining his Masters in due course.

There is no denying that becoming established in a maritime industry career, where training places are limited and costs can be high can be something of a challenge. But the MLOCS, along with Chiltern Marine has provided a pathway to the achievement of such ambitions. Last word to Fiona Scrimgeour; “there isn’t a day go by where I don’t reference some part of my cadetship, be that trading salty yarns, problem solving with colleagues, speaking with my own children or engaging with today’s cadets on board ships that I am chartering”.

What is Maritime London?

Maritime London – the promotional body for UK based companies providing professional services to the international shipping industry

Funded by over 100 companies and organisations from a wide range of disciplines, Maritime London ensures that the UK remains a world beating location to base a maritime related business. Maritime London’s mission is to promote the UK as the world’s premier maritime business centre.

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The UK is home to a world beating array of professional maritime service providers. Maritime sectors include:

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