Setting sail on an unconventional journey into the boundless world of maritime, Teenage speaks to MaritimeONE scholars Thaddeus Tan and Calista Chan on their journey thus far. 

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What sparked your interest in the maritime industry?

Thaddeus: When I was young, my dad used to bring me on boat rides. The apartment where I spent my childhood also overlooked the southern coast and port infrastructure. However, my interest in the maritime industry was only crystallised after two internships, which exposed me to the massive ecosystem of the maritime industry in Singapore. It was a combination of these factors that led me to pursue my studies in this field.

Calista: Growing up, I wasn’t really exposed to the industry. So when I first heard about seafaring, it sparked a huge interest because it’s not like your average nine-to-five job. This made me want to venture into this unconventional field.

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Did the industry differ from your initial expectations?

Calista: I imagined it to be very rugged and filled with physically strong people – think Popeye the sailor man! As I’m quite petite, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take on strenuous tasks. However, after gaining greater exposure to the industry, I realised that it encompasses more than just tasks related to seafaring; it also comprises port operations, chartering, brokering and many other ancillary support activities that might be based onshore. 

Thaddeus: After learning more about this sector through networking events and internships, I found out that it’s more exciting and dynamic than what I expected.

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What are the highlights of being a MaritimeONE scholar?

Thaddeus: Having the opportunity to forge lasting friendships in the maritime industry. From attending various events and workshops such as the recent Scholars’ Advance Programme, I discovered that the MaritimeONE scholars’ community is a close-knit one. We’ve had plenty of self-initiated events throughout the years and I see MaritimeONE alumni coming back to help out.

Take us through a typical day in school.

Thaddeus: As a Year 4 engineering student, my day begins in the lab – where I flit between having my breakfast, to tending to my experiments and handling different software. I meet friends for lunch and we collectively grumble about our final year projects before returning to the lab to work on my final year project. Then I head off for my night classes, since most Year 4 electives are held at night.

Calista: We attend lessons from 8am to about 3pm, depending on our stipulated timetable. Lessons are held mainly in the classrooms, but there are also opportunities for a more hands-on experience. We get to operate speedboats and receive practical lessons on lifeboats and life rafts at Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) Poly Marina located at West Coast Ferry Road. After spending 12 months out at sea, we then learn about navigation at SP’s simulation centre in Year 3.

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What’s the most challenging and rewarding aspect of being in the maritime industry?

Thaddeus: The most challenging aspect would be keeping up with the trends as this is an industry that never sleeps. It has many diverse sectors from port to maritime services; global trade is ongoing and shipping runs like clockwork.

Calista: I would say the most rewarding part is how every aspect of the industry is interconnected. This creates a lot of opportunities and good career prospects for those interested in joining this field!

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What’s a misconception about the maritime industry that you would like to set straight?

Calista: Many think that the maritime industry is a male-dominated one. While this may be true, there are more female captains on the rise, all of whom are very good at what they do. I would say the industry is rather diverse – anyone is welcome to join!

What are the important takeaways from your journey thus far?

Thaddeus: I realised that I should always look at the big picture and ensure that my efforts pay off in the long run. During my internship, I also learned how to handle dynamic situations with ease and get creative when solving problems.

Calista: I’ve learnt that I’m not someone who gives up easily. I face challenges with a positive mindset, which puts me in a better position to overcome them. I also firmly believe in reaping what you sow, hence I devote a lot of hard work to everything I do.

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What’s a piece of advice you would like to give those who wish to pursue a maritime career?

Thaddeus: Internships are one of the best ways to really understand what this industry has to offer, so go for it!

Calista: Have passion for everything you do. With passion, work would seem less like a chore because you’d love what you do and even look forward to it every day.

Calista is studying the Diploma in Nautical Studies, Singapore Maritime Academy at Singapore Polytechnic, while Thaddeus is pursuing his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) at National University of Singapore. This article was brought to you by Singapore Maritime Foundation. Click here for more information on applying for the MaritimeONE scholarship programme. 

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