Seafarer of the Month

Capt Gaurav Choudhary

March 3, 2017

Capt Gaurav Choudhary’s viewpoints and responses to our questionnaire:

Capt Gaurav Choudhary
A bit about yourself and how and when did you join up the seafaring profession?
Coming from a family whose last 2 generations have served the Indian Army, I chose to tread on a different path defying the family tradition. I have spent the last 22 years at sea captivated by the mysteries of the deep, longing for adventure & foreign travel. Looking back, I would say the journey has been nothing short of exhilarating, adventurous & rewarding.

What are your views about seafaring profession?
Shipping is an ideal occupation for young people seeking something exciting and different to just working in an office. Ships’ officers hold internationally recognised qualifications meeting standards, so most officers are qualified to work for the various national/ international shipping companies located all around the world. Qualifications and experience gained at sea are also readily transferable to other industries outside merchant shipping. A ship is a unique working environment, and those working on board ship often develop lasting friendships with their colleagues and have a stimulating life which is different to the experience of many people working ashore. Seafarers commonly enjoy generous leave or holiday periods. So while seafarers may sometimes be away from home for extended periods, they also enjoy the benefits when they come home. Seafarers have the chance to experience interesting and unusual places, rather than just the typical business or holiday destinations visited by many people. There is a great need for more qualified ships’ officers to meet the skills required by international shipping companies. There is a massive shortage predicted, therefore the demand for good & well qualified people will increase.

You as a seafarer would you recommend new generation to take up seafaring as their career?
Shipping carries more than 90% of world trade, without which half the world would starve and the other half would freeze. There is a lot to being a seafarer, the challenges are immense. It is tough, lonely, arduous and demanding. While we can debate the list of reasons to go to sea, what is certain is that there is pride in being a seafarer, and nothing should be able to take that away. A drive to keep on learning and growing shapes seafarers. A seafarer needs to possess courage and boldness as the job requires stepping out of the comfort zone – rather often. Seafarers work with varying cultures & nationalities and must be willing and able to adapt to connect and work effectively. A seafarer needs to be able to respond fast and well to any situation. A good seafarer ought to possess a good command of written and spoken English. Leadership is another valued trait as seafarers have to lead and solve problems. The ability to thrive under pressure is the key. Beyond leadership, a seafarer needs to be a good team player. A collaborative spirit is vital in order to work effectively on board a ship that consists of co-workers with various responsibilities and ranks.

Can you share some of your on board experiences or travel experiences?
I will never forget our 3 voyages to the Arctic. It is still fresh in my mind even though it happened many years ago. We had to call two ports in North Canada where shipping lanes are open only 3 months in a year and covered with thick ice the rest of the time.
The ship had to pass between Greenland and Canada through the Hudson Strait to our destination – Nanisivik and Little Cornwallis Islands. Our ship was in touch with the Canadian Coast Guard and an ice cutting tug would lead the way through the thick ice. We had to negotiate numerous icebergs along the way (not to mention the seals resting on them and feasting on fish just a few meters away from the vessel).We also spotted Polar bears in the wild. It was a very challenging and adventurous experience, and best of all, we completed the 3 voyages safely.

What is your message to the aspiring seafarers as well as to the seafarers already in profession?
A seaworthy ship is one that is sufficiently manned. For a voyage to be successful, every member of the crew and the captain must work in sync towards their goal. Teamwork is the priority on board. This is why every rank in the ship matters. It is also about being qualified to do the job, through some kind of unified system of training and qualification, so seafaring with its STCW rules covers all the requirements of a profession.
But being in a profession and acting “professionally” is not always so cut and dried – we look at what it means to really inject a professionalism into the job, and of how that is viewed across the world.
Be the one who walks and talks straight .Seafarers accept the duties of the role and position and work hard to make things go right and take responsibility if things go wrong. The master is accountable for all, and that is the ultimate accolade which comes with being a professional. The core of being a professional is showing a basic foundation of competence. It takes time, effort and commitment to remain at that standard and to even look above and beyond competence A true professional looks at the expectations of the role and seeks out the skills, knowledge and training to be as good as they can be.
It is about how you project yourself, how you communicate and deal with people. Appropriate use of language, good verbal and nonverbal interaction skills, eye contact, a friendly smile and genuine respect for those you work with are common traits of a professional. Walk the walk and talk the talk – then you will be a good professional.

“Mentoring at sea” – your viewpoints
At the beginning of a cadet’s seagoing career, teachers, Officer’s of the vessels where cadets spend their initial sea time must perform the role of mentors. At this initial stage, it is very important to cultivate a love of the sea and the seafaring profession, a sense of responsibility for behavior and actions, discipline, and a constant willingness to acquire professional knowledge. It is also crucial to instill the concept of team work.
Once employed onboard ship, working officers should be mentored by the senior ship’s officers. In this period, mentors should concentrate on showing & sharing professional knowledge and skills, developing important individual working characteristics, and improving professional efficiency. The mentors themselves should be highly qualified specialists, and have extensive knowledge and experience in practical work. Mentoring, including sharing knowledge, skills and experience with junior officers, must be provided at all stages of professional development, both during study and in the course of working on board. The knowledge gained through experience, and then reflected upon, is a valuable resource that should be passed on. People should train their successors, and in turn, understudy the people above them. Much has still to be taught (or experienced) on board to supplement the foundation of knowledge obtained ashore.”Many factors have led to a reduction in the opportunities for on-the-job experience, including changes in technology, faster promotions and reduced sea-time requirements between certificates of competency. There are also many barriers to the easy transfer of experiential knowledge, including language and culture, and there is the ever-present problem of pressure of work and lack of time. The role of mentoring in improving communications and enhancing team-building, and hopefully leading to a reduction in accidents and incidents, is emphasized. One of the major aim is to form a stable mental attitude and develop the ability to take safe decisions, while also developing professional skills and an understanding of the human element. We can improve life at sea for today’s seafarers, by sharing experiential knowledge for the benefit of ourselves and those who will come after us.”

Interesting learning experiences in your formative years
Looking back, I was fortunate to have sailed with an excellent set of Officers & Crew from whom I’ve imbibed qualities like good work ethics, teamwork, communication, integrity & safety. These features are the foundation of professionalism. I’ve also had the good luck of having worked on different kinds of vessels like General cargo vessels, Bulk carriers, Container vessels, Oil tankers, LPG & LNG Carriers which have broadened my horizon.

Thoughts on receiving MOL Presidential Award
It is an honor to receive the prestigious MOL Presidential Award. It was flattering to be sharing the roof with so many esteemed maritime professionals.
I joined MOL in Dec 2006 for the LNG induction course & since then there’s been no looking back. I feel privileged to be working for an organization of such repute.
I urge my colleagues to work towards making MOL a world leader in Safety of Navigation & Safe Ship Operation. To be able to accomplish that we need to work together as a Team with clear lines of Flawless navigation, communication, Motivation & Training. Let’s roll up our sleeves and continue this journey with more dedication & commitment than ever.
I am grateful to all the amazing people whose support is the reason I am up here right now. I would like to thank my fellow Seafarer’s, MOL, OSMC & last but not the least, my family who have made this possible.

Any challenges faced at the time of family joining
None at all. MOLMI has been very cooperative whenever family joining request has been made.

Your views about “working with MOL”
MOL maintains safe operation with advanced transport technologies and skilled personnel. The Safety Management System covers all activities from ship management to practical operation, including procedures such as loading and discharging. The crew training centers focus on human resource development and training with programs that meet seafarer competency standards advocated by the Society of International Gas Tanker & Terminal Operators (SIGTTO). MOL is committed to providing safe, reliable LNG transport at a level accredited by international standards.
MOL Office and employees work together, take the lessons learned from incidents and develop measures while “forging ahead to become the world leader in safe operation.”
MOL has a State of the Art SOSC which ensures safety in cooperation with captains. It grasps these risks in real time, confirming that communications between vessels, ship management companies, marine technical teams, and personnel responsible for vessel operation is clear and constant. The SOSC’s motto is “Never let the captain get isolated,” and its initiatives are built on that premise. The SOSC is always ready to offer timely information and advice, and helps in preventing serious accidents before they happen.
Might I add, MOL Office support to the Master & Seafarer’s has always been fantastic.

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