Knowledge, Experience and Persistence: That is What One Needs for a Successful Maritime Career, According to Chief Officer Aleksei Zherdetskiy

Aleksei Zherdetskiyin, Chief Officer in Peter Döhle
Aleksei Zherdetskiyin, Chief Officer in Peter Döhle

Chief Officer Aleksei Zherdetskiy joined Peter Döhle as a cadet. After a few years of work, he had visited the Caribbean, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Australia and Italy. He worked on many different types of vessels and finally chose container ships; he says the tighter the schedule for port calls, the faster time flies. Zherdetskiy told The Professional Seafarer about the beginning of his career as a seafarer and his professional achievements as of now.

Professional Seafarer: Why did you decide to become a seaman? Did you look forward to seeing the world? Or was it a financial interest? Or maybe you followed your family tradition?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: No, in my case it wasn’t a family tradition. I was the first seafarer in my family. Actually, my decision to work in the maritime industry was mainly influenced by my parents. Personally, I had doubts at first as to whether I had chosen the right profession. But then I found out that a third of my classmates intended to become seamen and my doubts vanished. With hindsight, now I am glad that things turned out this way and that I became a seafarer.    

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Professional Seafarer: What educational facility did you choose?  
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: National University “Odessa Maritime Academy”. I believe this is the most prestigious and popular educational institution not only in Odessa, but in Ukraine in general. Although I had doubts about my choice of profession for a while, I made up my mind where to obtain education right away without hesitation.

Professional Seafarer: Tell us about your first experience at sea: what was your introduction into this profession?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: My first experience was during practical training after the first year of study. It was a short voyage, which lasted for only one month. The ship traded across the Black Sea. But even this short period of time was enough for me to learn a lot of important and necessary things. With this experience and the theoretical knowledge I had obtained after one year at the Academy, my training was efficient. I was satisfied that the sea was my element.

Professional Seafarer: Tell us about your first voyage as a Peter Döhle employee. What kind of vessel was it? Did you face any difficulties?  
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: My first voyage as a Peter Döhle employee occurred nine years ago, right after my graduation from the Odessa Maritime Academy. I got a six-month contract as a cadet on a multipurpose vessel accepted from the Shanghai shipyard. Personally I had no difficulties because I already had experiences of working at sea. I think one of the most important criteria of success here is English proficiency, because the crews on Peter Döhle ships are all of mixed backgrounds. My knowledge of English back then was fairly good, so I had no problems.  

Professional Seafarer: What did you think of the possibilities for your career development at Peter Döhle? Did your expectations come true? Did you get your first promotion soon enough?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: Careers develop pretty quickly at Peter Döhle, though certainly much of it depends on the person and various circumstances. I got my first promotion after the first voyage, and for my second contract term I joined as a Third Officer. My experiences as a cadet and a seaman during my studies were probably instrumental in it. But I still think that Peter Döhle is a good starting point and offers many opportunities for a seafarer’s professional development.

Professional Seafarer: Please tell us more about your career at this company.
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: I have been on 13 voyages during my nine years of working for Peter Döhle. I was a cadet during my first voyage, then I had four contract terms as a Third Officer, six contract terms as a Second Officer, and two contract terms as a Chief Officer. I can say that joining as a Chief Officer and the first month of work in this capacity were the hardest. This position involves great responsibilities for the ship and the crew.    

Professional Seafarer: What countries have you been to and what have you seen? What places did you like the most?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: I can’t think of the exact number and names of the places I have been to. I enjoyed the Caribbean (St. Croix, St. Vincent, Aruba), Mexico, Chile, Northern Ireland, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. My favourite country is probably New Zealand.

Professional Seafarer: What do you think novice seamen should pay attention to in order to climb the career ladder faster?  
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: I think novice seamen should pay attention to professional skills and English skills. They should be self-motivated and persistent. Persistence is key, otherwise there won’t be any promotions. Theory plus practice, knowledge plus experience. And a strong desire to show one’s worth. That’s what is needed for successful professional development.  

Professional Seafarer: What kind of vessels do Peter Döhle recruit Ukrainian seafarers for?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: Peter Döhle recruits seamen for container ships and bulk carriers. But these are not the only ships Ukrainian seafarers have a chance to work on. For instance, the crewing agency Columbia Shipmanagement Ukraine works not only with Peter Döhle, which is its long-term partner, but with other shipowners as well, who recruit seamen for work on tankers.  

Professional Seafarer: And what kind of vessels do you work on?
Aleksei Zherdetskiy: I worked on all kinds of vessels and finally chose container ships. I like the abundance of ports, the hustle and bustle and the tight schedule. Most seafarers prefer to work on bulk carriers and tankers, which do not call at the port that often. Container ships may call at two or three ports in one day. I like this schedule. Time flies faster this way.