First Hong Kong Female Mariner Qualifies as Captain of Ocean-Going Vessels

Captain Carmen Chan shares her experiences on board STAR PISCES

By MarEx 2013-01-03 12:11:00

The Maritime Professional Promotion Federation (MPPF) and the Hong Kong Maritime Forum (HKMF) jointly held a press conference, entitled "A successful maritime professional", on board the passenger vessel "Star Pisces" of Star Cruises today (January 3). The first Hong Kong female mariner to qualify as a Captain of ocean-going vessels, Ms Carmen Chan, shared her experiences. Her successful story has sent a significant and positive message to the shipping industry in Hong Kong.

Contemporary seafaring is a safe and advanced professional industry. A career at sea carries favorable remuneration and excellent job prospects. Ms Lilian Chan, who has received engineer training in a shipping company, and Mr Lothair Lam, who graduated from the Department of Maritime Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and is qualified as a Captain, also shared their successful experiences at the press conference today. After six years of service on board vessels, Mr Lam acquired qualifications to become a Master mariner. Later, Mr Lam worked ashore for five years and was promoted from port captain to become the vice president of a shipping company.

Representatives of the HKMF, shipping companies, the Maritime Services Training Institute, the Nautical Institute (Hong Kong Branch), the Hong Kong Seamen's Union (HKSU) and the Hong Kong Institute of Marine Technology were also at the press conference to share their views on what makes a successful maritime professional.

Hong Kong is an international maritime center and has long held prime status in the global maritime industry. Nevertheless, Hong Kong faces the problem of a shortage of maritime professionals, which is also encountered by other maritime centers. To encourage more young people to take up a seafaring career, the MPPF, the Marine Department and the HKSU introduced subsidy schemes with a view to providing sponsorship to those who want to pursue a career at sea and offering shipboard training for cadets. The relevant sponsorship schemes have been pushed forward for 10 years. Many beneficiaries of these sponsorship schemes have completed their two-year on-the-job training and some of them have acquired Certificates of Competency (deck officer or engineer).

There are promising career prospects for cadets who complete their onboard training. Those who pursue a seafaring career have a 100 per cent employment rate. They can work on either ocean-going vessels or river-trade vessels, or they can take up posts in various disciplined forces such as in the Marine Police and the Customs and Excise Department. Generally speaking, it takes cadets about eight years to obtain Master or Chief Engineer qualifications. After obtaining these professional qualifications for ocean-going vessels, mariners can turn to shore-based maritime industries and take up managerial posts, such as marine officer, ship surveyor, ship manager, logistics manager, surveyor in classification societies, harbor pilot and container terminal manager. Alternatively, they may choose to further their studies and take up jobs in other maritime business after acquiring the related professional qualifications. Examples of such professions include maritime arbitration, maritime law, maritime engineering and marine insurance.

The MPPF was jointly formed by 13 maritime unions and affiliated maritime organizations in 2002. Its members include the HKSU, the Merchant Navy Officers' Guild Hong Kong, the Amalgamated Union of Seafarers Hong Kong, the Nautical Institute (Hong Kong Branch) and the Hong Kong Pilots Association Limited. Its objectives are to promote the maritime industry, to encourage young people to join the industry, to enhance relevant education and training, to nurture maritime talents and to maintain Hong Kong's status as an international maritime center.

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association has lent its full and strong support by helping graduates who want to join the industry to find a job. The association also helps cadets to tackle difficulties in working on board overseas and to adapt to their seagoing careers. The MPPF sincerely thanks the shipping companies that have provided trainee posts for graduates.

Between 2002 and 2004, the MPPF took the initiative to launch a sea-going incentive scheme, providing scholarships for those who aspire to work at sea, and helping them to fulfill their dreams of working on board vessels. Afterwards, with the full support of the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council, the Government launched the Sea-going Training Incentive Scheme in 2004 to provide more deck cadets and engineer cadets with financial incentives, and to enable more interested youngsters to benefit from it. The Sea-going Training Incentive Scheme provides a cash allowance to cadets under training, so as to enable them to realize their dreams of seafaring. To date, more than 230 deck and engineer cadets have participated in the Sea-going Training Incentive Scheme, with the high figure demonstrating the scheme's success.

Seafaring is safe, professional and advanced, and offers attractive remuneration and bright prospects. Those who would like to pursue a career in the industry can consider applying for the Higher Diploma in Maritime Studies under the Institute of Vocational Education, the Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies at PolyU and the faculties of mechanical engineering at other universities.