Trainees at Stena Nautica given naval cadet package

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Stena Nautica gives each new trainee student a naval cadet bag containing all the equipment and information they need during their placement on board.
“This bag is a really good idea,” says Moa Olsson, a deck officer trainee. “Otherwise you have to run around and put together everything you need during your first week on a new ship, but this takes care of it all.”

Moa Olsson is studying in her fourth and final year of the Naval Captain programme at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. She is currently on her third placement, this time on Stena Nautica, a ropax ship that sails between Halmstad and Grenå. She says that the treatment she has been given on the different ships has varied quite a lot.

“The atmosphere is very good here, which means the work is fun and you want to learn as much as possible. The climate has not been as good on some of the other ships, which definitely affects your work.”

To ease the introduction of students, Nautica gives them what is called a Stena cadet kit, which contains all the equipment that they may need on board. It includes gloves, a high-vis vest, an intercom radio and knee protectors, as well as information about mealtimes, work schedules and login information for the ship’s intranet. Christopher Stadelmann is second mate on Nautica and he came up with the idea of the bag, developing it together with his fellow officer, Jan-Eric Alcén.

Part of the team
“We want the cadets to feel welcome and get into the team and work on board as quickly as possible,” says Christopher. ”Much of the information in the bag is pretty obvious for those of us who work here, but new trainees can’t guess it all.”

He explains that the bag also contains a list of the names and jobs of everyone working on the ship.

“There are usually around 45 in the crew, but in the summer this can increase to as many as 70. It’s not easy to keep track of all the names when you start, so having them written down can be a big help.”

Christopher Stadelmann got the idea of the bag from his own time as a student officer. He says that the treatment he was given varied widely between ships and there was almost always some equipment missing or information that was not passed on.

“In the shipping trade you are often told off for what you haven’t done, even though nobody told you to do it – such as arriving on the cargo deck without a whistle when you haven’t been given one!”

Another part of the introduction on Stena Nautica is to try and arrange an overlap between departing and arriving students so that these two groups have one day together, during which the cadet bag is handed over and they have time to talk things over. Those who are leaving also write a summary of their training period on board the Nautica and put it into the bag, together with any other useful information.

“For the new cadets it can be useful to know which of the crew are good to work alongside and who let you try out different tasks, and who are less flexible. You can also look back and read about earlier students’ experiences of their placements,” says Christopher.

The idea of the handover is to prepare the ground for a training period as well as introducing the students to normal activities on the ship.

“We try to hint at the concept of replacement to the students. The next time they come here may well be as our colleagues, in which case it is a good thing if they know our systems. Many of our cadets start work with us later,” Christopher adds.

Making mistakes is part of learning
“As well as passing on practical information and having access to equipment, the crew’s attitude towards the cadets is really important,” says Christopher.

“It’s vital that they feel accepted and part of the gang, which is something all the crewmembers are responsible for. A new cadet must also feel that mistakes are acceptable.”

They try to avoid using the word student on the Nautica and talk about cadets instead, to get away from the negative connotations that the word student has in Swedish shipping.

“For many people, a student is someone at the bottom of the hierarchy, working their way up and having to put up with a lot along the way, but it’s not like that nowadays. We have a positive hierarchy where everybody’s skills are put to good use. It’s not like it was in the past, when the master knew everything and had all the answers. These days the master is more of a supervisor and manager.”

Every student who comes to the Nautica is assigned a supervisor, who has the main responsibility for their training on board. The supervisor varies from week to week as a result of the relief system.

“This is the person who knows what the cadet should be doing in the coming week and who has main responsibility for the cadet. On the other hand, it is not necessarily the supervisor that students work alongside all the time.”

Even though the officers on the Nautica have a well-planned system for introducing students, Christopher also emphasises that each cadet has their own responsibility for making the period of training work out well.

Up to yourself
“As a cadet you must be able to think for yourself and be willing to help, otherwise we will have people who can’t work independently,” he says.

Moa Olsson feels she has been treated well on the ships she has worked on, even though there were some crewmembers she kept a distance from. She agrees with Christopher, saying that the period on board as a cadet depends largely on what they make of it.

“You can’t put all the responsibility on the crew. Your time on board is very much what you do with it,” she says.

Linda Sundgren


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