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MBA student Patricia Silva on the bridge of the Austrailian Spirit oil tanker - photo courtesy of Patricia Silva
MBA student Patricia Silva on the bridge of the Austrailian Spirit oil tanker - photo courtesy of Patricia Silva

UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 9 | Sep. 12, 2006

Navigating the Shipping Business

July 4 – Departing from Freeport, Texas:
It’s 7:30 p.m. and I can’t believe it. I’m finally on board the Australian Spirit, a huge oil tanker. I’ve been waiting since February when I was first offered this MBA internship by Mats Gerschman, Managing Director of Sauder’s Centre for Operations Excellence. As a business analyst, I’ll be looking at ways to reduce administrative workload on board vessels operated by Teekay Shipping, a large Vancouver-based company. Teekay has a fleet of more than 140 ships, which carry 10 per cent of the world’s sea-borne oil. The project will involve me and my fellow MBA candidate, Marcel Wenzin, each joining a vessel and sailing on them for a week or two.

Now, after boarding the ship, I’m sitting on the couch in my private cabin. We’ve been walked through the extensive safety instructions, and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s departure for Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles), 3,360 kilometres away.

July 10 – A typical day, arriving at Bonaire:
At 8 a.m., after breakfast, I observe how the Chief Officer finalizes the cargo loading plan. I also analyze the amount of time he spends on documentation, the sources of information he refers to and the approach he uses to perform the task. During the 10 a.m. coffee break with senior officers, the ship’s master informs us that due to the bad weather the vessel will not be able to berth tonight, nor will it be able to anchor so far out in deep water. It may seem scary, but the master is able to rely on GPS devices and weather forecasts, including wind direction and wave height, to determine what the ship’s position will be the next morning.

At lunch I share soup and a choice of fish or prawns with the multi-national crew. We discuss some of the initial findings regarding the number of documents filled out for certain processes. Afterwards, I head up to the bridge where I learn how to read navigation charts, plot the vessel’s position and watch for ships on the radar. A tough night awaits me, not from the sound from the engine, but because with the bad weather, the ship is rolling almost six degrees on each side.

July 17 to 21 – Arriving at Philadelphia:
After 13 days, I know a lot about navigation, including how to find a star and the difference between the gyro and magnetic compass. Of course, I’ve also managed to complete my research.

Everyone is ready to discharge the 600,000 barrels of crude oil. However, the terminal does not have the capacity to receive the cargo, so we have to wait at anchor for four days. This becomes even more interesting considering tropical storm Beryl is heading north towards our position.

While waiting to berth, I present the findings to the senior officers. They are glad to hear that we have found some areas of improvement that could reduce the administrative workload by enhancing some systems and centralizing particular information. This proposal will be validated on our next trip and, if it still holds true, Teekay’s seafarers will benefit from the reduced administrative workload on board.

My time on the Australian Spirit is almost over. I hear the engine starting and the cabin rumbling with a familiar vibration. In a couple of hours a pilot will be on board to guide us up the river and in six more hours we will be berthing at Philadelphia.

This is how my trip ends and I head back home, happy to have met the crew and experienced such a wonderful trip.

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From: MBA student Patricia Silva
Various points across the high seas

Sauder School of Business student Patricia Silva spent several weeks of her MBA internship studying administrative processes on board an oil tanker.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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