Interview with APL’s Head of Global Marine Operations, Captain Lee Chee Seong
Keen to take on a seafaring career? Find out what key traits one must have in order to ‘make it’ as a seafarer.
Hunger is a key element in succeeding in the seafaring career. Hunger is what makes a candidate go ‘all out’ – to obtain and retain the job. Hunger also produces drive; an unstoppable drive that causes one to keep learning and growing. Candidates who hunger to become a captain eventually (i.e. cadet to captain), will usually be the ones who are shortlisted for the job – because their drive to succeed shine through.
As the saying goes, “your attitude determines your altitude”. This is indeed true for one who desires to get ahead as a seafarer. More specifically, it is to have a bold attitude. Boldness to step out and step up is vital. This job is not for the shy, intimidated and fearful. A seafarer needs to possess courage and boldness as the job requires him to step out of one’s comfort zone – rather often.
It is highly possible that a seafarer will work with an estimate of ten (or more) different nationalities on a ship. Thus, the ability to adapt to the varying cultures is integral as to how he will survive and thrive in this career. The seafarer must be willing and able to adapt his communication form to connect effectively with his co-workers.
4: Think on Your Feet
A seafarer needs to be independent and ‘think on his feet’. When one is on a ship, unforeseen circumstances (or weather) are bound to occur. When a seafarer is able to respond fast and well, he will definitely succeed in this trade.
5: Good Command of English
A good seafarer ought to possess a good command of written and spoken English. While it does not have to be the Queen’s English, a seafarer must be able to communicate in (basic) understandable English. In the shipping trade, English is the common spoken language amongst the seafarers. It is also APL’s policy that everyone communicates in this language when on board a ship. For job candidates who do not speak eloquent English, fret not – so long as you are willing to work hard at polishing up this language, you will still be eligible for the job.
Leadership is another valued trait in a seafarer. Regardless the rank, a seafarer will be placed in situations where he has to lead and solve problems. Knowing how to solve problems (and not problem-blame or problem-avoid), plus the ability to thrive under pressure, make one a valued seafarer. As Captain Lee puts it, “when a seafarer is on the ship, he is a leader”.
7: Effective Team Player
Beyond leadership, a seafarer needs to be a good team player. A collaborative spirit is vital in order to work effectively on board a ship that consists of co-workers with various responsibilities and ranks. Good team players are also people with initiative – initiative to make things happen. Their can-do approach contributes to the overall team success.
Loyalty is another aspect Captain Lee looks out for in a potential seafarer. He eyes for seafarers who will stick by for the long haul. He believes in a careful selection of the seafarers whom he grooms to become captains. After all, no point investing in capable and quality seafarers when their hearts are not for you (or the company). Loyalty is definitely a trait Captain Lee values highly.
About Captain Lee Chee Seong (Head of Global Marine Operations, APL)
Captain Lee is a Master Mariner trained in Australia and holds an MS in Maritime Studies (NTU). He is entrusted to formulate innovative and pragmatic policies designed to attract, motivate and retain sea-going personnel. These are directed in ensuring that ample opportunities are accorded to officers so they can reach their full potential. He made significant contribution to APL’s operation cost control initiatives and enjoys working with people to achieve results.