SMA News

After a 28 year career in the Royal Air Force as maritime aircrew, Mark Walker from North east Scotland has returned to his maritime roots. As a 16 year old, Mark trained as a deck cadet but was made redundant shortly after qualifying. He then joined the RAF and when redundancy loomed many years later a chance conversation with a representative from North Star Shipping led him to consider revalidating his ticket.

“I have always been ambitious,” said Mark “and at an early age I recognised the importance of having the right mind-set to achieve the goals that I set for myself. When I left the RAF in 2011, I gave myself ten years to obtain full Masters Certification. I chose the blended learning route as it allowed me to learn and progress at a pace I was comfortable with – and I wanted to accelerate quickly.”

This was a challenging timeline as he knew this would involve a revalidation personal training program of 18 month to refresh his existing qualifications, followed by the required sea time and further training.

Mark obtained a position with North Star Shipping as a second mate on emergency response and rescue vessels (ERRVs) and then moved onto Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs). He enrolled on the HND in Nautical Science at the Scottish Maritime Academy, based in Peterhead. Part of North East Scotland College (NESCol), the maritime centre offers students the opportunity to advance in their studies through is a mixture of distance learning (self-study) and college attendance known as blended learning.

Mark continues, “I studied one unit at a time – when I had free time at sea but primarily during my leave. I would take a week off, then study at home for a week and then attend the Academy for a week, taking the assessments for each module. I have been extremely fortunate to have the unwavering support and encouragement of the lecturers and staff at the Academy.”

One such lecturer, Iftikhar Ahmad,was so impressed by Mark and everything he had achieved that he nominated him for one of the annual Student Awards across NESCol, where Mark walked away with a prize. Iftikhar said, “Incredibly Mark has achieved his HND and Certificate of Competency in less than 2 years. This has culminated in him passing the SQA written and MCA orals exams for Chief Mate. This has only been possible due to his exemplary work ethic, dedication and sheer single mindedness.”

The blended learning route is ideal for seafarers, like Mark, who are working at sea on a four weeks on/off pattern. In addition to the HND route which Mark followed, the Academy offers HNC Nautical Science, leading to Officer of the Watch Unlimited.

With flexible start dates each delegate is provided with an individual learning plan and a tutor is assigned to provide support by phone or email. Face to face learning and supervised assessments at the Academy is a mandatory requirement and these are prearranged.

Mark is currently Chief Mate on the North Star Shipping’s PSV the Grampian Sovereign.

Callum Bruce, Managing Director of North Star Shipping, said “It is great to see one of our crew members demonstrating such a high level of dedication and commitment to progressing professionally. We would like to commend Mark for this achievement.”

In addition to the blended learning programmes the Scottish Maritime Academy offers a wide portfolio of classroom and simulator based courses for those within the merchant fleet.

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