As part of our ‘Alumni’ series, Clyde Marine Training (CMT) spoke to recently qualified Marine Engineer cadet Renats Sukulejs.
Renats was sponsored during his time with CMT by the Maritime Education Foundation (MEF) and attended Warsash Maritime School (part of Solent University, Southampton), achieving his HND in Marine Engineering in July 2023, followed by his Certificate of Competency (CoC) in September 2023.
He then successfully attained a position with United Offshore Support GmbH, who recognised his effort and application during his second sea phase which he spent onboard one of their vessels as part of his cadetship.
Firstly, why did you want to go to sea?
For as long as I can remember I never wanted a regular job that involves daily commutes and the same mundane tasks day in and day out. I was also reluctant to shell out over £40,000 in university fees, which lead me to find a career at sea where I would have a meaningful career with benefits unlike any other, as well as not having a massive university debt dragging me down before I had even begun my career.
There’s also this deep alure to being a seafarer who gets to travel the world and experience things our peers ashore can hardly imagine.
Why did you choose Clyde Marine Training for your merchant navy cadetship?
When looking for a training provider I did a lot of research and had interviews with a variety of companies, each with its own qualities, but in the end I felt that CMT would be my best option as they are the largest training provider which suggested that they have a proven plan for cadet training and management, allied to the fact that they responded to my questions really quickly and made the joining process very easy.
What are your memories of your merchant navy cadetship with CMT?
The cadetship overall was really good having the full university experience aligned with the practical sea phases in between college time, allowing me to put the theory in to action.
Living away from home at Warsash Maritime academy with my classmates had its ups and downs. Being able to help each other while studying was a huge benefit, but it could also be a challenge living and studying with the same people – particularly during COVID when our social network shrunk – but I think in the end it made us all that little bit more mature.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome during your cadetship?
The first big challenge was getting thrown into adult life at the start of phase One. Whilst I had been away from home a few times for extended periods this was different given that everything is down to you now, from cooking and laundry to budgeting and paying bills.
The biggest ongoing challenge were the occasional periods of homesickness which were especially hard during holidays and important events. As difficult as it was, I am fortunate enough to have a supportive family and a great crew that have been through it before, reminding me that this feeling is temporary, and I’ll be back home for a long time before I know it to spend meaningful time with them rather than a regular shore side job where I would have a few hours after work before it’s time to rinse and repeat.
Tell us about your first trip to sea as a merchant navy cadet and how it affected you and your ambitions?
My first trip was aboard the Hebridean princess a vessel built in 1964. My first week onboard I was clueless like a lost puppy, following senior engineers everywhere, but with time I gained confidence and was able to show that I can take initiative and work independently, resulting in more responsibilities being given to me which really helped my understanding of ship operations and systems.
The first trip was also very interesting as the Hebridean Princess is an older ship than most, and subsequently has older systems and set-ups, which pushed me to develop a more hands on approach.
As for how it affected my ambitions, I believe it reinforced my belief that I can do more than I thought I could and that I was going down the correct path.
When at CMT can you describe the excitement and camaraderie amongst cadets about their future careers?
Not once have I met a cadet that was not excited for their career to come. One of the biggest topics we talked about over drinks were our experiences at sea both good and bad but also what our plans were for the future which varied between vessel types and companies, what the pros and cons of each one was which provided the insights to vessel types and companies to others that had not served on them and would not have otherwise known about.
What do you recommend about a merchant navy cadetship to those interested?
It’s a very rewarding career from a monetary perspective, where even a starting rank will most likely earn more than their friends working ashore.
But even mentally there is a sense of pride that comes with being able to say, “yeah I make that work or manoeuvre it”, and if after a few years you decide that it’s not for you it’s not a big problem given the skills and experience earned aboard will open so many doors that it leaves you set for life.
What is the best thing about being a seafarer?
The sense of freedom when I look out over the horizon to see nothing but the open ocean, which I find very soothing and a welcome break from the busy city life.
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
Working every day for months at a time can be extremely difficult, especially at the start of a trip when it’s a shock to the system, but with time you get into the rhythm and the days just pass by without thought. Additionally, it is made easier and more varied with the difference between vessels, but most times it is half days, shore leave and a great crew.
Was the bond/friendships you made with fellow cadets lasting?
Absolutely, the cadetship is difficult and there are many shared hardships faced, so it is only natural for lasting bonds to be formed between cadets even now with everyone being around the world we still regularly get in touch to catch up and share stories and give advice.
What would you like to add?
The most successful cadets and seafarers are not those that finish top of the class or pass exams first time, the most successful are those that are persistent and push through the difficult times.
To find out more about a career at sea as a Merchant Navy Officer, and how you can apply, visit: Merchant Navy Careers | Sea Career | Clyde Marine Training