Second Officer Kirill Dulin: Today Nothing Prevents Our Seafarers from Obtaining Education Abroad

Кирилл Дулин, 2-ой помощник капитана CSM

Second officer Kirill Dulin had his first voyage as a cadet recruited by Columbia Shipmanagement Ukraine in 2011. His career advancement was smooth, but at some point Kirill realized that he was interested in the line of work often criticized by the crew aboard – hypothetic “office work”, namely strategic management. And this young officer decided that he should study while there still was time. He gave himself a break in his maritime career and since he chose a European, not Ukrainian, educational institution for further studies, The Professional Seafarer newspaper approached him to learn all aspects of his choice.   

Professional Seafarer: Please tell us about your work at sea. We know you started in 2011 as a cadet, and now you are already a second officer. Was it a difficult advancement?  
Kirill Dulin: Back in 2011 I was lucky to join a cadet program initiated by Columbia Shipmanagement. I remember myself and my classmate (fairly smart young men with a decent level of theoretical knowledge) camping out on the doorsteps of various crewing agencies and having no right friends in the right places. And I remember how happy we were to find out about an open and transparent CSM cadet program. When I got my first assignment, they told me in the crewing agency: “You are very lucky to find yourself as a cadet on the ship under Oleg Olgin’s command. You will get the best training possible there.” And I am very grateful to Oleg Vladimirovich and executive director of the Ukrainian branch of CSM Grigoriy Mashkevich for giving me a push and making me believe in myself on my way to professional development.

Professional Seafarer: What knowledge and skills did you find particularly useful in real life?  
Kirill Dulin: When I found myself aboard my first tanker, I was under impression that everything I crammed before exams was outdated or even useless. Later on it turned out that I was just ineptly using it in the very beginning: and in the course of work almost everything came in handy! Astronomy, basic ship theory, radiolocation equipment and so on and so forth. Also I think it is great to be flexible, dynamic and have a healthy interest in technological advancement in the industry you work in. This way it is easier to handle new duties and to learn to operate new equipment.

Professional Seafarer: You said you got a break from work to study. What institution did you enter?
Kirill Dulin: I am in my second (and last) year in the master’s degree program MSc Maritime Management in Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden. I tried to enter two years in a row. In 2014 I didn’t manage to get a scholarship, but the next year I won a very good grant and went to study. The program lasts for 2 academic years, so what is left now is to complete my graduation thesis and to graduate in June.

Professional Seafarer: How did you find out about this educational institution?
Kirill Dulin: I just browsed Google searching for a European master’s degree program in my major. My first objective was Germany, but they didn’t offer any programs in English at the time. Sweden is perfect in this respect for international students, because all master’s degree programs are in English.

Professional Seafarer: So why did you opt for that program?
Kirill Dulin: I liked the description (and running head of my story, I can say that the course exceeded my expectations), besides my area of specialization and experience were in line with the level recommended by the university. And also excellent public model of the state and Scandinavian nature did play a part in my choice.  

Professional Seafarer: Did you learn a lot of new things during your studies?
Kirill Dulin: It may sound cliché, but during these two years I was taught how to think: to work on solutions for major and important problems the shipping industry faces today. We talk about safety in the fleet, environmental impact, maintaining and improving performance in times of crisis and so forth. When I was writing my first graduation thesis, I could not find an interesting topic and in the end chose a trivial passage planning. Today I hardly know what topic to delve into because as it turned out there is a whole lot of problems in the industry worth studying.

Professional Seafarer: Is educational process abroad very different from what we have in Ukraine? What are these differences?
Kirill Dulin: It is very different, at least in Sweden. For instance, I really liked respectful attitude of teachers and no authoritarian atmosphere, everybody does their best to express their opinion and then to discuss it in the group and find arguments for and against it. But it was tedious sometimes because I was used to independent work. Now we are completing a graduation thesis together with a classmate and a lot of time is needed for reaching a consensus on major issues. But it is great because I understand that teamwork skills are something I lack and I need to work on it. At the same time my first education provided a stable theoretical foundation, which I can occasionally demonstrate on lectures in Chalmers.

Professional Seafarer: Did you find a common language with your classmates? Are there many Ukrainians?
Kirill Dulin: My group consists mostly of the locals, some have a bachelor’s degree in maritime logistics, others are like me with the same education and experience. Many of them had a chance to work in Russian-speaking crews before so we did find common ground from the start. I was the first Ukrainian student in this program, because it is a fairly recent initiative, and probably because Sweden seems rather exotic in terms of location and language. In any case I hope people will learn about it and maybe will get interested.

Professional Seafarer: Many people are afraid of the enrolment process. Was it difficult for you?
Kirill Dulin: Enrolment process is not complicated: you must send a set of documents (education certificates and transcripts with translations, TOEFL or IELTS results, motivation letter and references) in e-form in January to be enrolled in autumn. After that you pay a small fee for review of your documents and wait for selection results in April. To joint a master’s degree program our basic higher education is enough: bachelor’s degree in ship navigation, ship engineering or maritime logistics. The main obstacle is cost of education and living in Sweden. But there are a number of scholarship programs. Information about them is available at the university website.   

Professional Seafarer: What opportunities will open up for you after you get your degree?
Kirill Dulin: All previous graduates of this program found jobs in their major after graduation. Most of them work in shipping companies, some in national maritime administrations or ports. As for me, I will certainly recommend this type of studies for my friends and co-workers. Today nothing prevents our seafarers from obtaining decent education abroad.