Leadership and the Maritime Academies

For the record I am not saying that it is the majority…just that they are out there (as in any industry, including the armed forces). Lots of absolutely fantastic people as well!

Some (many? most?) here would find this generalization unfounded and offensive. I’m among them.

“On both sides…” no doubt.
So you’re citing a minority to support an assumption on the whole?

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Mr Cavo,
That is not a statement insinuating anything negative about those people. I also count myself in that group as well! :smile: We are guys out here trying to make a buck. My point is it isn’t a “sir yes sir” regiment out here. We are regular dudes making buck, that is all. My description of a stereotypical mariner was meant to be humorous, not taken as an insult.

Also, I am not saying anything about the whole at all. My point is that as with anything, a bad egg or two will slip through the cracks…namely due to the fact that no one is going through scrutinizing leadership aptitude in order to gain employment; rather, technical ability is the preferred gold standard for employment. This is the case across multitudes of industries.

I apologize if my remarks were misconstrued to lead you to believe I was saying negative things about the whole.

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That may be true of the junior officers trying to ship out of the hall or whatever but for moving into a permanent position as a senior officer it’s another matter. In my experience management skills and the ability to cooperate and gain cooperation are going to be scrutinized.

Good technical skills are necessary but not sufficient.

I once worked on shore for a brilliant engineer. He had a PhD in mechanical engineering and we had many interesting discussions BUT he had little people skills thus was not much of a leader. Being smart he decided that though he was making more money than he had previously made teaching and doing research at a university he thought it would be best if he returned to the university. Like I said he was a smart man. Unfortunately in business the ineffectual and incompetent leaders aren’t that smart normally.

When you sign on a ship and in your pass down you’re told “this Captain loves to eat 3/M’s for breakfast “…you just know it’s gonna be a good hitch. I sailed with one Captain who got pissed at the 2/M for some reason and legit threw a cordless phone across the bridge. Very professional.


As an engineer, and as I stated previously, I have worked with captains, good and bad, the worst was a mercurial bipolar screamer. . . oftentimes you just didn’t know which version of him you were getting. I also recall, as a cadet, sailing with a 1AE that was a screamer and tool thrower. Although I was never the target of his tirades, they did get old. . . . on that particular ship, the CE was a “cadet hater”, but I just kept my nose down and ground out the work. We never had words, except for the day that I signed on and he expressed his opinion of cadets. . .

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As a former CE I did not allow tool throwing when an AE did it during interactions with other engineers. I’ve dropped a few tools horizontally after banging my hands or other body parts, that is understandable but otherwise absolutely inexcusable. That behavior is an indication of both poor character as well as mental instability none of which one needs in an ER when there is a major problem with the vessel/people at risk. Not to mention it’s just rude :wink: They were warned twice and then allowed to seek fame and fortune elsewhere.

I was lucky. As CE, I never had an assistant that was a screaming tool thrower. Not to say that I didn’t fire my share, just not for that. . . .A side note about that certain individual. Flash forward about 15 years or so, and I am the Galveston ABS surveyor. The two permanent Chiefs on a certain vessel are the screamer, and probably the best engineer that I sailed with, and certainly the best one as a cadet. Needless to say, they didn’t get along. . . . and in a way, I am glad that I sailed with the screamer. Good guidance for things that I did not want to emulate.

I kind of think I’ve learned more about good leadership over the years by observing bad leadership and resolving to never be like that when I got the opportunity to do it myself. Working for good leaders was great and preferrable, but lessons learned from poor leaders just stuck more in my opinion.


Just wanted to say, not ALL merchant marine officers are just camo wearing good ole boys looking to make a buck…some ACTUALLY ARE highly professional career ship’s officers…not just rig hands and bored society second son’s masquerading as ship’s officers…


With the small number of ocean-going vessels, why keep giving federal dollars to the maritime academies that churn out these individuals who only wish to be petty sadists? As for screamers, how many are hungover, waiting to go to the bottle in their cabin? I personally have only been on 3 vessels where people weren’t almost at each other’s throats but I sailed on many go-go & go-co vessels.

That’s the first lesson I learned on my first ship out of school. The ship was know as a 3A/E mill since they could only seem to get green new 3rds to go because everyone else knew better. 3rds made one trip on that ship and either quit the company or requested to never return to that ship. C/E wouldn’t give you the time of day if you were a watch-stander. The 1A/E was the same only just a complete dick. Wouldn’t let you even read a tech manual (which he kept locked in his office), or use a tool. All equipment failures were to be reported so that the 1st and 2nd could fix them, preferably on their OT.

I was determined to never be like that when I got the position. I chose to encourage my assistants to learn, do, and ask as much as possible. The more they knew the better I could sleep.

To this day I’ll never understand why that C/E and 1/E ran things that way. That the company didn’t care about their failure of leadership is mind boggling as well. It was well known, and cost of hiring a new 3rd for every other one that quit that ship alone should have justified some intervention.


On Leadership the Royal Navy had a slim textbook on it.
Some Quotes:
Better an army of stags led by a lion than an army of lions led by a stag.
Ten good soldiers wisely led
Will beat a hundred without a head.
The textbook is only 30 pages and goes through direction of subordinates, responsibility for welfare, giving orders and trust in subordinates.
The book finishes by stating that of the many quotations in the book few were by Admirals. This was not because of a shortage of quotable sayings by Admirals but to demonstrate that the problems and mysteries of leadership have exercised the minds of many. Leadership is not just a requirement of the services.

A lion, that seems to me to be shooting to high, Most of us are just Joe Shmoe that are just looking for smooth ship operations.

As a first rule I agree with @DamnYankee, do no harm. Second need to get rid of the blame culture, otherwise it’s difficult to learn and improve. Third, need to increase the incentives for the crew to cooperate.

Finally some crew members will want to hinder, not help and they will never change, they need to be gotten rid of without hesitation.

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That was my mantra. . .those that couldn’t take up the slack were gone. . . .

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Merchant marine academies make one product: thirds. The product is of variable quality, produced to a minimum standard, as are most products. For example, bolts.

With a bolt, as long as the threads aren’t bunged up, it’s good to go. It fits the purpose. Corrosion resistance, additional tensile strength–these improvements cost money, and are no guarantee that the threads aren’t bunged up.

If you want all bolts to be produced with corrosion resistance, or additional tensile strength–or leadership skills–you’ll have to pay extra, and shipping companies are all about making money, not spending it. Imbuing all thirds with true leadership skills would drive up the cost of academy tuition considerably. It would also mean flunking all students incapable of being leaders.

When the military orders bolts they are all to mil spec, and they think nothing of paying $200 for a 1/2” NC stovepipe bolt.

With bolts, if you do need additional features, you can always sort through the box of bolts you have. You’ll usually find one that works, in the short term anyways, kinda-sorta. But time is money, and you generally work with the bolts you have.


My question how such do such shitty products whether thru the hawsepipe or academy get promoted? THAT is a failure of leadership. Some people are promoted because they did well in a previous job but then once more responsibility is upon them they can’t handle it and are incompetent. It’s the Peter Principle of old school management training which states eventually people are promoted to their level of incompetence. That the promoter doesn’t recognize their mistake and correct it is a serious lack of leadership. They are loathe to admit their mistakes in my experience.

Management never makes mistakes. They only "find new opportunities for synergy”. :upside_down_face:


Hate that term. It’s one of the buzzwords people use that are really obnoxious. I have been in video conference calls where the leader would say,“Let’s take this off line” Which means I don’t want the people I am sitting with to know how I really feel. The tacky phrase 'moving forward" annoyed me also. WTF who moves backwards? Why don’t you just say “next” or we got to do this soon? The one that REALLY annoys me is “revert”. Now I was always taught revert means to return to a previous state. So when some Sigma 6 genius sends me an email telling me to revert so the team is sure we are on the same page I get annoyed. Revert to what? We going back to the old way of doing things? What page is that on?
If you have no original thoughts to express just STFU.

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