A decade of mentoring

Captain Andre L LeGoubin, vice-president of The Nautical Institute. Credit: The Nautical Institute

We should not let opportunities to impart valuable maritime knowledge pass us by. It would be such a waste as that knowledge might help save a live at sea

I began writing my book Mentoring at Sea – The 10 Minute Challenge in 2010 and it was published by The Nautical Institute in 2012. I am working on the second edition, so it is an ideal time to reflect on the value of mentoring and what effect the book has had on the maritime community.

For the last 10 years, The Nautical Institute has been working hard to introduce, re-introduce, or support mentoring on board merchant vessels. Through mentoring, ashore or afloat, I believe some marine accidents can be prevented.

I am delighted to say that today we hear the word ‘mentoring’ used more frequently throughout the maritime community. When I speak about mentoring to a group, I often ask attendees to think about their career to date and, in particular, how they have got to where they are now. I ask if there was anyone in their life who stood out as a mentor as I have described? I love doing this exercise as the whole room lights up and many smile fondly, remembering that person who made such a difference in their life.

There are many schemes available for a candidate to be paired with a mentor, who will assist them with their career choice and progressions for as long as both (mutually) feel the need. These are great schemes, and mentors who pass on just one piece of experiential knowledge, once in their life, can be just as great – especially when that one piece of knowledge prevents an accident, incident, or even saves a life. Of course, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the effect of our mentoring, so that is why I define mentoring as ‘the act of sharing knowledge without a designated reward’.

I have noticed there are many missed opportunities for mentoring on ships at the moment, often brought about by the company International Safety Management or safety management system that will not allow a junior officer to understudy a senior until they are in formal training for the next rank.

One example that I regularly see on vessels is where only the chief officer is allowed to go forward and let go or weigh the anchor. This is such a waste of opportunity when the chief officer could be on the bridge understudying the master and the (suitably trained) second or third officer could be forward. It is the same in the engine room where only the chief or second engineer can undertake so many duties that could be performed by a junior engineer officer under their supervision. With “buy-in” from all parties, ashore and afloat, this could be so easily changed.

I respectfully challenge everyone in maritime to engage in mentoring, no matter what your position. Reflect on the vast amount of knowledge that you have and take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to pass a piece of it forwards. Please remember, this is our time to make a difference so let us use that time wisely.