Having first sailed on an Ardmore vessel in February 2016 , we are delighted that 2nd Engineer Amit Gopal Sharma agreed to share his experience of life at sea.
Why did you choose a career in seafaring?
People have always gone to sea for many different reasons, whether for adventure or seeking a new challenge. For me, it was accidental. After graduating, my first priority was to provide financial support to my family. And so, despite not knowing much about the profession, I decided to apply for an MCA approved “Trainee marine engineering” course, which fortunately I got accepted for. The course was conducted by Applied Research International, New Delhi, in collaboration with UNIVAN. Upon completing the course, I began my seafaring career, which at the time (circa 2005) was quite a unique career choice.
I don’t for a second regret my decision to become a seafarer. It has provided me with many opportunities, including the opportunity to travel across the globe and discover some very interesting, rare, and unusual places and cultures, which I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to experience.
Seafaring has also enabled me to support my family financially. And of course the large chunks of time off to recoup and spend time with my family are very welcome.
What can you remember from your first trip as an engineering cadet?
It was quite a difficult experience initially as it was my first time away from home, and naturally I missed my loved ones tremendously. I started my career as a junior engineer with UNIVAN, onboard the M.T. Pacific Crystal, a VLCC (very large crude carrier). It was a very long first trip, with at least 10 months at a stretch) .
For most of us, our first experience is often memorable, be it our first school, first bike/car, first partner, first job, first ship etc. My first day onboard is still as fresh as if it happened just yesterday. I got onboard around 0200hrs and was instructed to assist the crew in the engine room. When I went into the engine room, I came face-to-face with a huge fuel pump of a 30,000BHP Sulzer engine lifted up and hanging for its overhaul. I was stunned and wondering what my responsibility would be in this as my main routine job to date had been cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning.
However, fast-forward to six months later and I knew almost all the operations/maintenance needed in the engine room, and became the engineer in most demand. By the end of my contract I had built up a wealth of knowledge on various equipment, so all in all I think it was a great first experience onboard.
Have you always worked on tankers?
Yes, I have always been a “tanker guy”. I started my seafaring career with VLCCs, then moved on to Aframax tankers, followed by product tankers and oil/chemical tankers.
What has been your most memorable voyage?
My most memorable voyage was on a chemical tanker M.T. Nord Strait in December 2010 when I was working with ESM and piracy in Somalia was at its peak. It was a hijacking attempt by pirates near Salalah. It was one skiff with armed pirates who fired with their weapons targeting our bridge. All crew onboard were ordered to go into Citadel except the chief engineer who was in the engine control room, while the master and chief officer remained on the bridge. I was a 3rd engineer at the time. The pirates tried their best to board the vessel but due to best management practices, having all the anti-piracy measures in place, and evasive manoeuvres, the pirates had to abort their attack after a long chase of around 50mins.
What has been your most difficult experience?
I think the biggest challenge has been getting along with people I have never met before and entrusting them with my life, like I would a close relative or best friend.
At some point you have to trust that everyone on the ship is qualified to be there and therefore competent.
How do you see the future for seafaring engineers?
Shipping should do more to recruit the next generation of seafarers before the industry hits a serious skills gap. With more ships entering service, a higher competence level required, and thorough uncalled port inspections, there is a real challenge to recruit mariners with the right type of skillset. The deployment of more digital technologies on ships and emergence of remote monitoring and shore support also puts a strain.
How does sailing with Ardmore Shipping differ from other shipping companies?
Sailing with Ardmore differs in many ways, from going the extra mile to maintain high standards of safety culture onboard, to the owner’s dedication towards crew welfare and providing good onboard facilities, including the process of rewarding deserving employees. Ardmore is also active in supporting its ship staff fully to meet the growing challenges in the industry.
The no-blame culture helps in providing a relaxed and productive working environment. Ardmore gives seafarers the respect they deserve by arranging interactive seminars with senior team members, something I hadn’t previously experienced. The things I admire the most about Ardmore are:
1.Instilling the core values of Professionalism, Integrity and Respect in everyone onboard and ashore at the entry level itself
2. A simple but effective slogan “Doing seemingly small things well” and
3. The concept of ONE TEAM.
It has really been an excellent experience sailing with Ardmore.
Share something interesting about yourself that we mightn’t know.
There are quite a few, but I’ll mention the ones I remember.
- I love travelling. That’s no.1 on my bucket list – to travel and see the world
- I keep my promises. Always have, always will
- Every person is broken somewhere in his/her life. So am I, and I love it. As it has taught me how to live and love
- I am a vegetarian and I love to eat
- I have a Twin brother
- I love Adventure sports like valley crossing, bungee jumping, snorkelling, river rafting etc.
I thank Ardmore for giving me this opportunity to share my experience.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published in issue 17 of the Ardmore Standard. Not to be reproduced without permission from Ardmore Shipping.