Accessibility.SkipToMainContent
Members at work

A new adventure every day

24 July 2020

Chief officer and master Fraser Matthew can be found plying the waves on large passenger ships on the Irish Sea and around the west of Scotland

What is a typical day in your job?

Typically, I will work either a 12-hour night shift or day shift during which I am in command of the ship. During each shift the ferry will complete two to three crossings of the Irish Sea between either Dublin and Holyhead or Belfast and Loch Ryan. As master, I will conduct the pilotage and berthing/un-berthing manoeuvres on the bridge in each port.

No shift is ever the same, filled with a huge range of tasks and duties required to operate and manage a large passenger ship. There is always a long string of e-mails in the inbox from ashore or other onboard departments. Surveys and audits are also there to keep us on our toes, as is the training exercises and drills that we hold to ensure all our crew are ready to face any emergency.

Each day is filled with new situations, problems and weather conditions all of which makes it a new adventure! 

Why did you choose a career at sea?

I grew up on the coast of the River Forth and can always remember as a child looking out at the ships wondering 'where they have been' and 'where are they going'. A life at sea always interested me since the view from your office always changed, and I could never imagine myself working a nine to five job and commuting every day.

Since leaving school and starting my cadetship, I still feel the job has such variety and is constantly changing and evolving.

Tell us some of your career highlights so far – and challenges

The career highlight for me is definitely taking my first command. It was the most surreal moment introducing myself as captain over the Public Address to 1,000 passengers in the height of the summer. It was similar to driving a car for the first time after passing your test, up to that point you always had someone checking over your actions and now you realise it's all on you! Although very quickly it becomes second nature and now it's just like driving a car, even though its 215m long.

Working as part of an international onboard team has always been a highlight for me. The seafarers' ability to work together in harmony no matter of background, nationality, race or religion is an inspiring story to tell. We all work together to ensure the ships make it safely across the world and enable international trade to flow.

Time management is definitely a challenge, with ferries you have to constantly fit everything in around the sailing schedule. The majority of pre-departure preparations are precisely timed around the loading operations to ensure we sail on time, doors take six minutes to close, engines eight minutes to start, moorings two minutes to let go. I do find myself looking at my watch a lot before sailing especially if there are delays.

What are the best things about your job?

I love the challenges, every day is different and there is always something learn or learn how to do differently. The weather is something to be respectful of, and in the winter, it makes your day even more challenging and rewarding.

The intensity of the work and long hours are well balanced with leave. I really think we are lucky as seafarers since we have the luxury of complete job separation. When I'm home on leave I don't have to worry about what is going on at work, and I'm free to do so much more than what I could squeeze into a weekend.

Would you recommend seafaring as a career?

Absolutely! A career at sea allows you to learn a craft that has been around for hundreds of years and still provides an essential service to the transportation of goods. If you can manage the long periods away from home you are rewarded with building unique friendships with all nationalities, and the experience of travelling the world.

Tell us one thing that people may not know about your job?

Certification. Ships and crew have to carry a crazy number of certificates. All with different validities, expiry dates and survey requirements. It is a full-on job to check everything remains valid and all crew keep their own certificates in date.


Tags

More articles

Members at work

Cadet Ella Mackinem has never had a dull moment from the minute her educational compass was reset towards a career at sea

  • Telegraph
  • 24 July 2020
Members at work

Chief engineer Tenyon Latter says there is a vessel out there for everyone interested in maritime engineering

  • Telegraph
  • 22 July 2020
Members at work

Yacht deck officer James Sherwood enjoys speaking the 'global language' of the sea

  • Telegraph
  • 17 July 2020
Members at work

Cruiseship deck cadet Gareth Hampton recalls the thrill of taking the wheel for the first time

  • Telegraph
  • 20 July 2020
Members at work

Machinery at sea was made for third engineer Harley Vardakis

  • Telegraph
  • 20 July 2020
Members at work

Seafarers: The forgotten essential workers

  • Telegraph
  • 22 June 2020
Members at work

Third Officer Ross Cleland maxes his professional development

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Deck Officer cadet Thomas Rapley follows in his grandfather's footsteps

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Harbour Master Dawn Franklyn relishes her 'second career' as a skipper and maritime professional

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Engineer Pavol Belina can feel like a glorified plumber while visiting paradise

  • Telegraph
  • 15 May 2020
Members at work

Cruise ship Safety Officer Martel Fursdon juggles a busy schedule of port calls

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Petra van den Corput thrives on deck with hard work and responsibility

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Captain Stephen Gudgeon has spent forty years at sea and still revels in the magic of crossing the Panama Canal

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Ex-Royal Naval officer Thomas Stapley-Bunten starts a second career in the Merchant Navy

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Tug AB Emily Reeves feel grateful to have a job and no student debt

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Acting chief stewardess Sofiia Skorokhod steps up during the pandemic

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Fascinated by the sea, Jamie Edwards finds lasting friendships and a camaraderie onboard unmatched elsewhere

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020
Members at work

Cadet David Pirie is speeding through his bucket list

  • Telegraph
  • 14 May 2020