As I climbed the steep staircase to B Deck I was welcomed by Peter playing a folk song on his acoustic guitar. His cabin was a bit bigger than mine, but not spacious especially as it served as an office too.
What made you chose the merchant navy as a career?
Peter is the Chief Officer which means he is second in command on the ship. He chose the Merchant Navy as a career at an early age. He had a fascination with ships and Nelson was his hero. His grandfather and uncle were both sea farers and his father was an air force navigator. He really made up his mind after watching a BP video about tankers. His immediate response was “That’s for me! I thought taking star sights at 15 knots would be a lot easier than at 500 knots, so I started to approach shipping companies for a job.
What qualifications do you need to get started?
To enter the course he had to have at least four top GCSE grades in Maths, Physics, English and Science. He did a 4 year cadetship with Blue Star line and has worked for three shipping companies before joining RSU.
Peter clarified the rankings and promotion route for me. He obtained his Second Mate’s certificate in 1980, as a Second Mate, equivalent to the Second Officer, you are third in command on the bridge. Then followed Chief Officer [Mate] exams, which Peter passed in 1987 and finally Master’s exams. Peter passed these in 1991 and it means that he is qualified to be the ship’s captain.
“The highlight of my career so far?... Passing my Masters exams!”
Do you enjoy your job?
“This is a really good way of being at sea. With the scientific research needing precise positions we really get to use our ship handling skills.”
What is the downside of your job?
Peter is a family man and he misses his wife, Sara and daughters Laura and Clare who attend Stowmarket Middle School.
“At least after 3 months at sea I can have a few weeks at home. It’s better than commuting!” Looking out of his porthole at the sun reflecting off the waves, I had to agree.
Peter’s most memorable moments go immediately to some extreme situations, an anchor cable nearly falling on his head, the captain of a previous ship having a heart attack whilst on the bridge and a man going overboard never to be seen again. Perhaps its no wonder that he finds playing the guitar and mixing his own tracks at home in his recording studio, a great way of relaxing.