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Felix Amoreth, our 2018 Deck Cadet of the Year, talks about how he got involved in maritime, the challenges of life at sea, and where his career is taking him.
Before coming to Warsash Maritime Academy I was a maths teacher in Angola, but I got a scholarship from a major oil company to study instrumentation. I travelled to South Africa, where I was supposed to start this training, but after a year the company advised me that studying nautical sciences would suit me best, as they needed marine expertise.
I was a little reluctant in taking the advice as this would change all my plans, but in the end I accepted the challenge!
It was very difficult for me to adapt at first, in a new study environment and in a new country where the language constituted a barrier.
The combination of tuition phases and sea phases really helped me – first to figure out if this is what I really want to do, and second to better understand the career at sea. When I qualified as a deck officer, I knew that I was ready to go out and get a job as an officer.
The thing about the lecturers and tutors which differs from the lecturers I used to have at college, apart from their professionalism and experience, is their connection with the students. They were very social people and always keen to help. They would answer any question, help with doubt or worries before exams, or even during my sea phases. They treated us as proper seafarers already, like peers.
My first sea phase was a real challenge. Because of my background I knew almost nothing about the industry – I’d never been at sea nor even in a single cross-channel ferry. I was like a blank piece of paper.
After spending a few months in preparation for my first sea phase, I went straight on board a ship, not knowing much. Officers on board expected me know lots, but I wasn’t meeting their expectations. I got shouted at, I got angry, I cried...
I was about to give everything up, but I remembered that I had accepted the challenge and I was there through a scholarship programme which wasn’t easy to get in my country. So I had to motivate myself and find ways to overcome all the storms!
I started reading more books, asking more questions and learning from everyone and any activity. I was getting along with officers and the crew. In the end I started enjoying being at sea and I got a nice performance report.
I made a few very good friends, both lecturers and students, but my favourite memory was participating in the Sail4Cancer liferaft challenge – spending 24 hours stuck in a liferaft out on the river. It was a great experience, and great to raise money for a good cause.
Both the Academy and the University helped me in various ways. The biggest help was when I changed my surname and I needed to get a new biometric residence permit – I got help right from the very start of the process until I finally got the permit.
What seemed to be impossible, I’d finally accomplished: being a merchant navy officer. It was never something I planned before coming to Solent, but slowly became part of my life and my goals. At the passing out ceremony, the actual feeling of becoming an officer, with family, friends and relatives to behold the great achievement of ours… it was indeed a great ceremony.
And six months after my passing out ceremony, I was invited back to receive an annual award: Deck Officer Cadet of the Year 2018. For someone who had lots of difficulties and uncertainty at the start of the course, it was a proud moment.
As a cadet I have been almost everywhere: around Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. The most memorable place I have been to was Istanbul. There was a very nice view when crossing the Turkish Straits, and I was the one driving a 63,000-tonne oil tanker through, under the command of a pilot, with a current of seven knots against us. I got some good shots while passing through Turkey to the Black Sea – after changing the man on the wheel, of course!
This is a challenging and demanding industry. It takes nothing from you; it gives you qualities and abilities which make you capable of facing any trouble or difficulty in any area of your life.
If you want a career in this industry, confidence, courage, humility, respect, teamwork, initiative are a few of the important qualities to have. However, don’t worry! You will develop them anyway, if you’re keen. Knowledge and experience come with time and dedication!
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