On the 16th of January 2020, a group of 50 students from Holy Innocents’ High School travelled to the Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability, where they visited the Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI) for their learning journey. I tagged along under SNCF as a Work Experience Programme’s intern, hoping to learn a thing or two about the maritime industry, and I was not disappointed.
What is WMI?
The Wavelink Maritime Institute is a subsidiary company under Wavelink Co-operative Ltd, which was co-founded by the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in a bid to bring maximum value for the maritime community and expand its horizons.
WMI opens its doors to anyone with a passion for the seas. With their crew of experienced personnel and well-equipped facilities, they strive to nurture the maritime industry in Singapore by providing quality and cost-effective maritime education that allows members to realise their potential.
The maritime industry is one that is not often explored at secondary level, or any educational level for that matter. Seafaring (working and living at sea) is regarded as such a distant and far-fetched profession, that most students, myself included, dare not venture into it. The learning journey serves as a bridge to this unfamiliar industry for the students, allowing them to explore it at a more comfortable, comprehensible level, at the same time pique their interest in such a career.
There are two components to the learning journey: an enriching introduction to maritime careers and seafaring by Mr Wilfred Thiang and a ship navigation experience guided by Captain S.K. Menon.
The introductory talk was everything I imagined it to be, and more. Mr Thiang provided incredible insight on the maritime industry and I must admit, while a maritime career has never once crossed my mind, I am now effectively interested. Not to say that I am on my way to becoming a Seafaring Officer, but I can say with certainty that the learning journey had been an eye-opener for many, if the looks of fascination on the students were anything to go by.
Following the talk was a short Q&A session where students voiced their queries. A number of them were enthused over asking questions. The Maritime Career Training Programmes had been clearly elaborated on, hence the job felt more accessible.
As I sat in with the students in the WMI Audio-Visual room for the introduction, I noticed the multitude of articles plastered on the left wall. I got to read a couple of them, and one particularly caught my attention. It spoke of a lady who wanted to become a Seafaring Officer herself, but was worried as the industry was male-dominated. Upon expressing her concerns to an officer, she received a two-word reply that had stuck with her throughout her journey as a Seafaring Officer.
There was a constant emphasis on how background did not matter when it came to qualifying for work in the maritime industry, so long as one had the heart. It is heart-warming to see that the industry was impartial, where one would only be seen for their passion and potential for the job.
Next was the ship navigation experience in the WMI Ship Bridge Simulator, which allowed students to immerse themselves in the role of a Seafaring Officer. On the outside, the room was rather nondescript, looking more like a meeting room of sorts. The inside, however, was a whole other world.
It truly felt like we were in the bridge of a ship. The whole room exuded an air of professionalism and there was a chorus of awes as the students entered.
The screens that lined the room were stand-ins for what would be windows in the bridge, depicting the outside landscape. We could see the port of Singapore grow smaller as we “departed”, and how the day progressed as the sky turned darker.
Captain S.K. Menon gave orders through the walkie-talkie as he explained the professional role of a Seafaring Officer and lent his invaluable insight into navigating a ship. He had been a ship captain for over 10 years and has now left his days of seafaring to continue his maritime career on land.
Some students flocked to the control panels, others to maps and the ship’s wheel. Parts of the display control panel were accessible, so students could fiddle with the ship’s searchlight and scope among other things.
On top of that, we had run-ins with a sinking ship, submarines and such which Captain S.K. Menon had expertly handled and elaborated to us, to add on to the simulation experience.
Overall, it was a fun, experiential segment in contrast to the more technical introduction, and gave the students a sneak peek on working as an officer of the watch in a ship’s bridge.
Before this experience, I never fully realised the weight of operating a full ship. It seemed like a tumultuous task but I never knew enough to understand it.
Ships are billion dollar assets. Spearheading such ships out in the open seas would be the equivalent of running a billion-dollar business, or even whole countries.
Not to mention, oceans are the most unexplored parts of our Earth. Anything could happen throughout the course of the voyage, hence the immense responsibility that falls on the captain and his crew to make big decisions promptly and maintain level-headedness during critical manoeuvres.
Singaporeans tend to shy away from jobs labelled ‘tough’, and the job of seafarers are infamously so. But their profession is a respectable one, and the pool of career opportunities is sure to grow in the coming years. With organisations such as Wavelink Co-operative Ltd promoting maritime careers, future generation of students would be more informed and interested in this line of work.
This article was brought to you by Ang Qiwen, a Dunman High School Year 5(JC1) student at SNCF for a 1-month work attachment.