From cadet to 2nd officer in the company: interview with Columbia Shipmanagement seafarer

Yeremenko Kirill: Hello! My name is Yeremenko Kirill, I work as 2nd officer in Columbia Shipmanagement.

The Professional Seafarer: Nice to meet you! How long have you been in the CSM already?
Yeremenko Kirill: I got in Columbia Shipmanagement in 2012 after 5th course, when I was studying in magistracy. Second term of 5th course there is educational, without sea practice. To save time, I anticipatorily passed all exams. I guess, it was the right decision. If a cadet wants to start working immediately after graduating from university, he should have some experience.

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The Professional Seafarer: You have a serious approach!
Yeremenko Kirill: Yes (smiles). I applied to some companies and Columbia Shipmanagement agreed to work with me, offered to pass cadet’s program. This company actively supports cadets that have high grades. I had an advantage among other candidates, I had diploma with honors. Sure, excellent grades aren’t obligatory, but they’re encouraged by the company, because it’s large and looks for the best crew. CSM hires cadets after 4th grade before they get their diplomas. And some practice is desirable.

Having obtained the diploma with honors, some guys reluctantly want to pass practice as cadets, they want to get the position at once as they need some great perspectives. Well, at least I wanted. At that time I was looking for junior position. My first practice before CSM was a deck cadet. From 8 am till 6 pm I officiated asan ordinary seaman. Any navigation studying was only in free time, after a long and tense working day. It wasn’t enough for me. I studied well and wanted to use my knowledge. Just imagine: you learn and learn spending a lot of time and energy, and then your practice is to beat off the rust (laughs).

Actually these 6 months as an ordinary seaman on the deck were very helpful. Any officer should work some time as an ordinary seaman in order to understand ratings’ work, for example, during mooring operations. Not just command, but perform it a few times as active participant.

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The Professional Seafarer: How was the cadet’s practice in Columbia Shipmanagement?
Yeremenko Kirill: The terms in CSM are the following: 1st time a cadet goes to the sea as a cadet, but he isn’t a deck cadet, he just studies. After that he gets 2 promotions and makes his new contract as junior. Company doesn’t want ageless cadets, so it doesn’t keep guys in this position for a long time. CSM is interested in those, who are ready to learn fast.

As I was passing the exams, I was assigned on the vessel and I went to the sea for 6 months. I had certificate of competency by that time and practice on tanker. I and got on tanker as well. Some of my acquaintances which took practice on dry cargo, sooner or later got assigned on tankers. Columbia Shipmanagement has large tanker fleet. It isn’t hard to get on one during this period.

My wage as a deck cadet was smaller, but the reason of it was that I was studying. The way of practice should be taken was decided by the master depending on the situation. Usually I spent 4 hours on the bridge, 4 on the deck. Next contract I made as junior. I got on the vessel 1 month before the 3rd officer would have to sign off. I had to declare myself and enter the position.

The Professional Seafarer: Did you manage?
Yeremenko Kirill: As you see! It’s quite great procedure, it allows people to declare themselves. You don’t have the feeling of dullness, otherwise, you have to act quickly in order to be hired. After that you become a 3rd officer.

The Professional Seafarer: How did you become a 3rd officer?
Yeremenko Kirill: I finished the last term of sixth course and told that I was ready to go to the sea. But I had to wait for 3 months approximately. I’d like to say, that it’s quite normal. Some of my friends had to wait for longer time. It’s connected with the fact that company has to find a place for you. For example, to promote someone to 2nd officer in order to have a free position.

I got on the same vessel. As I recommended myself pretty well, master wanted to work with me. It’s convenient to go back on the same vessel, saves a bit time in the beginning, as you already know the vessel. You can start at once and not to waste a few days to get acquainted with the vessel.

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The Professional Seafarer: How did you work as 3rd officer?
Yeremenko Kirill: I worked 3 contracts as 3rd officer. All of them were on the same vessel by the management of 2 different masters. Crew was great every time. I was impressed by the 1st contract, I dived fully into the work and my new duties. The 2nd was a bit easier, I knew everything and just made my knowledge stronger. I turned my responsibilities into routine and looked forward to the work of 2nd officer.

Before my promotion to 2nd officer in CSM I had to make 3 contracts as 3rd officer, which coincides with Marshall Islands requirements flag, under which the vessel was registered. Although some of my friends became 2nd officers after 2 contracts, but it’s the matter of case. In CSM everything happen occasionally, growth is regulated by internal policies.

During my 3rd contract I knew everything about my current position, so I seriously started to study the work of the 2nd officer: I came to his watch, was interested in what he was doing. Sure thing, masters noticed it. They liked that seafarers were interested in and took the initiative. Both masters gave me promotions for 2nd officer. There was a superintendant on the vessel, who selected me as a person ready to work on this position. It also played a great role.

Having come home I stated that I want promotion. And, I guess, my inner confidence helped me. There are a lot of willing people, they all want and it’s fine. So if you think that you’re ready, go ahead, don’t be shy to show it.

The Professional Seafarer: How long have you been working as 2nd officer?
Yeremenko Kirill: 2 contracts, 8 months.

The Professional Seafarer: How do you like working in the CSM?
Yeremenko Kirill: The advantage of working in the CSM is a quick career growth. The wage on the tanker fleet is smaller on junior positions, but on the top ones it’s pretty decent. We’re in crisis now, there are a lot of willing people, and it’s hard to push through. But you don’t have to be equal to anyone, specialists are in need. In our profession, the more you know, the more valuable you are. The more prepared you are, the better company you can join.

The Professional Seafarer: Did you think of changing the company?
Yeremenko Kirill: I’m interested in what’s happening in other companies, but I don’t want to change it. I’m making career here and I guess it’s pretty successful. You’ll have to proof and show a lot of things on new place.

The Professional Seafarer: What University did you graduate from?
Yeremenko Kirill: I was studying for 4 years in NU OMA branch in Mariupol, then I decided to get master’s diploma studying full-time in Odessa. Usually, cadets from Mariupol start studying distantly and work to get their first thousand dollars. I guess, there are 2 types of companies: those that want cadets to work a lot as ordinary seamen and have much experience and those that hire just cadets with theoretical knowledge. CSM, for example, hires only full-time studying cadets, they get their practice during the cadet’s program.

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The Professional Seafarer: What was the hardest for you when you first went to the sea as 2nd officer?
Yeremenko Kirill: 2nd officer is in charge of navigation, paves the optimal course of the vessel, the save and the short one. Sure, master watches you and correct in case if you’re mistaken. But you can’t put all the work on him, especially when you want to show yourself. Master should come, take a look and say that everything’s fine. I spent a lot of time at the beginning, was checking everything many-many times. As a result, I got well recommendations.

Actually, the hardest was that all the duties were new, I had to get used to them. By the 2nd contract I got my style of working and started doing everything more coherently.

The Professional Seafarer: Was there anything new on that position?
Yeremenko Kirill: Well (laughs), I was glad that I’m quite young 2nd officer. I was inspired that I was performing serious duties, I like doing serious stuff. The higher your position is, the more responsibilities you have and it has to inspire you more.

The Professional Seafarer: How do you reach understanding with subordinates?
Yeremenko Kirill: Well, I can’t shout on people, by the way I can’t due to age and character. But I guess you have to keep subordination and respect people even if they don’t do something. There are many nationalities and some of them react differently on shout. You may offend someone by doing this, so you have to find diplomatic approach. You have to explain a person that he should listen to you as all responsibility lies on you.

The Professional Seafarer: Why did you decide to become a seafarer?
Yeremenko Kirill: I had 2 choises: I was interested in computers and my father was a seafarer. He told me: if you’re a seafarer, you’ll be with money. The work is hard, as the seafarer is far from family and relatives. But I decided to try. And I don’t regret, I like financial stability and that I’m claimed on the labor market. I got used to rely on myself and work at the sea allows me to feed the family.

The Professional Seafarer: How do your relatives deal with parting?
Yeremenko Kirill: A bit hard. You need to find the right life companion. It’s a serious question as problems in the family influence your health at the sea. Seafarer should be confident that he’s waited at home so that he can work a lot and receive good letters. Work at the sea is nervous itself and if you get nervous because of the family, you come back really tired. Usual routine become impossible as something troubles you at home. It’s also necessary to find a girl that’s interested not only your wealth, but the feeling.

The Professional Seafarer: Did you manage to find your sweetheart or not?
Yeremenko Kirill: Well, I guess, I did. But it was hard. Once I was confident I found “the one”, but was disappointed. But now I guess everything’s great.

The Professional Seafarer: What could you advice to cadets?
Yeremenko Kirill: The main thing is not to be afraid to fail. When I was looking for a junior position, I failed one interview. But it helped me to understand what I have to improve and what to work on. So don’t give up and learn on your mistakes.

Also I remember one case. When I was studying, a superintendant came to us and gave lections, told about work at the sea. His favorite one was “own responsibility”. All officers have responsibility for their work and it may be different. When we think only about responsibility of someone, before master’s checking or something else, work’s done not at the same quality as it should be done. But if anyone does something so that they can’t reproach themselves, the result is much better. And don’t think that others don’t pay attention to it, as well as management. One’s image is formed out of such small details. Own responsibility differs professional from a person who only executes the instructions.