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30/05/2019 11:47 AM

Cadetships: freezing Antarctica to cool New York City

On two epic global voyages, Port Authority’s first maritime cadet discovers the skills needed for working at sea and making a home on the open ocean.

“When the ship leaves port and you leave home behind, you become focused on the task at hand. I think ‘this is my new home now’.”

For 25-year-old Queenslander Matias, his home for much of the last six months has been on board ocean-going vessels on two epic voyages that have taken him across the world.

Matias was chosen as one of the first two cadets on the Sponsored Deck Cadet Program launched by Port Authority of New South Wales to help young seafarers get their start in the maritime industry.

As part of the program, Port Authority secured two ship placements for Matias that have taken him from the freezing ice sheets of Antarctica to the ice-cool streets of New York City.

Image: Keeping cool in Antarctica with the RSV Aurora Australis

“Antarctica was unbelievable! So peaceful and quiet,” says Matias. “Passing through iceberg alleys on a glassy day with clear blue skies; witnessing the Aurora Australis; trekking on the ice alongside a group of Adelie penguins — just untouched raw beauty.”

Onboard the RSV Aurora Australis for over two months, Matias was part of the crew resupplying the research and science operations at Antarctica’s Davis Station and Casey Station.

“Working in -15 degrees had its moments but we had quality equipment and everyone looked after each other. Seeing the stations, how they operate and the conditions in which expeditioners live in down there — it’s something I will never forget.”

His second voyage was a round-the-world trip on two Wilhelmsen Roll On Roll Off (RoRo) vessels transporting cars and cargo to global ports. This four-month trip took him to Japan, China, South Korea, USA, Mexico, Panama, England, Belgium, Germany and Sweden.

Image: Matias spent two months on the RSV Aurora Australis supplying research
stations in Antarctica

“Stopping at different parts of the world is a dream job for many, but this one was intense. Being in one port for a maximum of 12 hours means that the workload is very high and there’s a lot of pressure to get the ship ready to sail again. But, provided I completed my shift, I got to explore the cities and see new places, cultures and people from all over the world.”

Across these two epic voyages, Matias has been able to learn new skills and gain valuable sea-time experience that will go towards the 18 months he needs to gain his Watchkeeping Certificate with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

“I was able to assist the crews with general ship operations, mooring, cargo loading and unloading, navigational duties, voyage planning, steering during pilotage and preparations for port entry and departure.

“In Antarctica, I even got to assist with the scientific operations and kept lookout on the ship’s crow’s nest to find open water when navigating through thick pack ice.”

Image: Keeping watch was just one of many maritime skills Matias gained experience in
on his ship placements

Practical skills aside, one of the biggest learning curves faced by many new seafarers is the time away from home and the isolation of being at sea — and this was no different for Matias.

“Long distance can be hard to manage sometimes, especially with friends and family, but it’s about keeping a positive mindset and a good attitude. On the way back from Antarctica we got stuck in the ice for five days. We were meant to arrive back home for New Year’s Eve — everyone was excited and had plans, but things didn't work out.

“The best way to overcome something for me is speaking up and reaching out, and the guys on board were really helpful. I got on very well with the crews and they made both of these trips so good.

“On the longer round-the-world voyage, I was taken in by the Indian officers and Filipino crew. Everyone was very friendly and pleasant to work with and I made some very good relationships onboard. I’m very fortunate to have experienced working with these great people.”

Image: Matias is the first entrant on Port Authority’s Sponsored Deck Cadet Program

Both voyages have enabled Matias to develop his nautical experience that will help in a small way towards rebuilding Australia’s maritime skill base.

“These experiences have given me a feeling of accomplishment and the motivation to learn more — to do the job well and return home safely.”

Find out more about Port Authority’s Sponsored Deck Cadet Program

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