When I walked up the gangway on the DSV Maersk Defender in Peterhead as an AB on 8 April 1982, I never imagined I’d still be at MSS 40 years later, but I am and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
I first went to sea in April 1979 at the age of 16 on a Ben Line bulk carrier. I worked for several other companies, on different vessel types, before joining Maersk Supply Service as an AB 3 years later. Most of my seafaring experience has been aboard anchor handlers with MSS. After some years I became a CPO (Bosun). Several years later Maersk Supply Service UK sponsored my Officer of the Watch certification. Going back to education after 26 years I thought I would hate the maths element of the course, but to my own surprise, I actually quite enjoyed it. On completion of my OOW I spent a trip on a containership before returning to the Supply Fleet.
Having good hands-on experience from the deck is essential when you make the move to the bridge. Same vessels, same company, but a completely different job. The biggest difference is the amount of paperwork generated and time spent at a computer. To any ratings wondering whether to go from deck to bridge – if you’ve got the drive and ambition, then go for it! It’s hard work, but the rewards are worth it.
There have been some massive changes during my time on anchor handlers, the most significant of which is undoubtedly the introduction of shark jaws and rail cranes which have made operations much safer on deck. Safety is a massive part of the culture on board these days.
Ultimately, every day’s a learning day as a seafarer, no 2 rig moves are the same. It keeps you interested and active. I believe that a healthy body helps with a healthy mind. You get to see places that you would normally have to pay to see, which makes being away from home more bearable. I’ve worked all around the globe, in the Mediterranean, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago (fantastic place), West Africa, Singapore (my favourite place), Malaysia, Canada, China and the States. Like most seafarers I enjoy a long sea passage, going weeks without seeing land at all. The longest I remember with MSS was for 7 weeks, towing a rig from Singapore.
I’ve also been able meet and work with some really good people, many of which will continue to be good friends even after I eventually one day hang up my hard hat.
Photos of 2/O Graham Sim on maritime operations throughout the years, and on leave in London. The last monument pictured was erected to MP Samuel Plimsoll, who saved countless seamen’s lives by campaigning to have load lines, now called the Plimsoll Line, painted on ships sides to stop unscrupulous shipowners overloading ships, which subsequently sank.