Woman engineer at the offshore: "Why not me?"
Samantha Vickers decided at the age of 30 to pursue a new direction in her professional life. In a few weeks, she will be embarking for the first time with BOURBON as 3rd engineer, on board an MPSV, the Bourbon Evolution 805. A look back at an inspiring career.
Part 2: Daily life on board as an engineer
On average, how long do you spend at sea?
Samantha Vickers: It depends. Usually around two months, sometimes more, sometimes a little less. During my training period, I enjoyed a month of recuperation between each embarkation. Generally, the rest period onshore is equal to the work period at sea.
How do you prepare for such an embarkation?
S.V: I try to be proactive regarding the administrative formalities by preparing the necessary documents in advance. As engineers, we spend most of our time dressed in overalls, so there is no need to overload ourselves with "civilian" clothes. In addition, I always bring a book on mechanics with me, so I can brush up on my knowledge at any time.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
S.V: I am in a constant state of learning. As a 3rd or 2nd engineer, you pick up new things every day. It's quite exciting. The engine room is a place where I really feel at ease, a place with noise, various machines, circuits, valves, etc. Naturally, it is also a true source of richness to be able to navigate and travel as part of one's work. When you are on a break and you take the time to stay up on the bridge, you can see things that you never see onshore, including beautiful sunsets! The best part of being a seafarer is also meeting people. On board, people of every kind of nationality come together. This variety is interesting because sometimes it is necessary to juggle with the cultural diversity of the different people and to adapt the communication.
How would you define the atmosphere on board with your male colleagues?
S.V.: Everything is going very well. In the engine room, for example, I have always been well accepted. I was never forced to impose myself. I may encounter some difficulties in the future, but for the moment everything has always gone well. Sometimes it can be quite surprising to see a female engineer on board. Some people don't know how to treat me, it's quite funny. This provides a feminine presence and a new way of seeing things!
What reactions do you get when you describe your job?
S.V: Surprised responses, especially from the men! My friends, on the other hand, are very happy and quite interested. I feel that all professions, even those that are more "masculine" can be open to women and this is what I advocate.
Would you like to pass on a message to young women who might consider becoming seafarers?
S.V: A woman does not have to work harder than others in order to become integrated. Everyone must respect each other, we are all equal on board, and we are all seafarers. If I was able to make this choice, other women could too. In fact, that's what motivated me. I saw women engineers and that inspired me. To work on board, you don't necessarily require a strong character or to impose yourself. You just have to be yourself, and know how to step out of your comfort zone.
What about the future?
S.V.: I hope to remain at BOURBON, particularly working on the MPSVs, because these are operations that I particularly enjoy. I am also learning a lot about ROVs. There are a number of engineers on board and this encourages interaction and the sharing of knowledge. Maybe in a few years I will feel like being closer to land, who knows? I won't rule anything out, we'll see...
Are you happy to be an engineer?
S.V: I am quite pleased to be a navigator and to work with seafarers. It is a truly valuable and enriching experience.
Samantha and three fellow seafarers aboard the PSV Bourbon Rainbow, on their way to Luanda.
Photo taken before the christening of the crossing of the equator - an important moment in the life of a seafarer.