Katie Marshall works as a Second Officer on our anchor handling vessel Siem Aquamarine. She is studying to qualify as a Chief Officer by the end of this year, and then she will aim for her Master certificate, which has been her goal for the last 10 years. Read more about Katie’s experience and why she strongly encourages more people to choose a career at sea.
"Working at sea means a lot to me in terms of my independence and empowerment. It is exciting, different, and really rewarding."
What do you like most about your job and being on a vessel?
I like the freedom and that our “office” is always changing and evolving. I also love being out in nature -I love the ocean and the sunrises and sunsets, it is so beautiful, and you get to see it every day. Working on a vessel is a combination of hands-on work and using your brain. You work on a series specific small tasks which form together to achieve something bigger. The ship’s crew work together as a team to ultimately get the job done, and I really enjoy being part of a team!
What does it mean to you to work at sea?
Working at sea means a lot to me in terms of my individuality and independence. In general, not many people do this job, and even less so woman. Being out here and being able to do what I do makes me feel empowered.
Day to day life working at sea is like this:
I am on a big ship like this, I get up in the morning and walk up to the bridge. I could be manouevring the ship down a channel, or putting it alongside a rig and doing cargo work. I pinch myself sometimes – I can’t believe I am allowed to operate a vessel this large – but I am, and that means a lot to me. It is fun and I love it!
How would you describe the everyday life on board?
Life on board is routine-based where every day is sort of the same, but it could also be completely different, depending on what you are doing, and even depending on the weather. You don’t think about that when you work in an office, but everything you do here depends on the weather and the nature. You are at the mercy of whatever mother nature wants to throw you that day! Luckily in North West Western Australia, it’s almost always sunny skies and calm seas!
Do you remember your first day on board a vessel? What was it like?
Yes! I remember both my first day on a tall ship and the first day on an offshore vessel. I was mind blown on both of those days for the same reasons. When I got on an offshore vessel, I thought “Wow, this ship is huge”. After spending time on old fashioned sailing ships, all I could think was ‘There’s so many buttons and levers everywhere, I’m never going to figure this out!’, It was so incredible watching these enormous ships come in through a channel and all of a sudden with no help from tug boats, the whole ship just stopped and turned on a dime… I was pretty amazed, it is funny to look back at that.
How do you manage your work-life balance when you work at sea?
I love telling people I get 6 months of holiday every year, and I love the time off. Being on board for such long periods can at times be challenging and you will miss out on birthdays, holidays, weddings, Christmas and other happenings. Maintaining communication with your loved ones at home while you’re at work is so important, and having a strong and understanding support network makes it so much easier. But, at the end of the day you get so much time at home. You are away half the time, but when you’re at home you are home, and you don’t have anything work-related to worry about.
What is your perspective on diversity in the maritime industry?
Of all seafarers in the world, only 2% are women. But it is improving; when I first went to university, there was myself and one other woman in my class. But now in my final year, there are six women! We see more and more people coming through, and I think much of that is thanks to media and social media, as the visibility of women in the industry is increasing. Many people don’t know about this industry, so we (people, organizations, and the companies) need to put it out there and promote the possibilities that exist.
Why would you recommend others to choose a career at sea?
Working at sea is fun, different, really rewarding and you get to do different things and see different things. It is far from a standard office job. You get to spend time in nature and experience everything that is out there. And you get 6 months of holiday every year. It is a character-building job, it can be difficult, but it is very rewarding.