Magoosh GRE

Professional Studies: Admission Essay

| March 18, 2015

My interest in shipping dates back to my early years when, as a youngster, I was intensively preoccupied with my family as they worked in the shipping industry. I have always maintained keen interest in shipping and it had been a subject in which I flourished effortlessly. This interest grows and this was my source of motivation for enrolling to the American College of Greece where I majored in Shipping Management. While in college, my further experiences contributed to my passion for Shipping and sailing and so I decided on the operation department of the industry as my first professional career.

Through these family, life, and academic experiences, I became deeply fascinated in the art and decided to pursue a degree that would develop my flair from a personal interest to a professional strength. In this essay, my intent is to discuss some of the professional and operational issues faced in shipping and maritime as well as some of its implications for me professionally and the future of the industry generally.

Having worked for three and a half years in shipping operations following my graduation from college in the areas of economics and finance, I have gained practical knowledge and grasp of some of the critical challenges faced by the industry as well as other wider issues central to effective operations and managing growth. It would be right to assert that much of my theoretical knowledge owes to my background stemming mostly from my degree. However, through my professional work, combining the knowledge of theory with my practical experience has not only strengthened me in a number of ways. Indeed, I have become well informed and acquainted with the general intricacies of ocean transport, the relationships of international trade, as well as other vital areas regarding the physical, economic and regulatory environment that guide shipping functions.

I have enjoyed most of these experiences and found it to be extremely informative. It has provided me with an innovative way of looking at the yachting and sailing culture, the shipping industry and the operations of ocean transport generally. This essay will however focus mainly on the ocean transport and shipping industry given its overriding importance to the maritime world and because it accounts for the bulk of my professional work.
Having chosen to apply for graduate work, which combines theory and practice, I am anticipating that a post-graduate program which is embedded with rigour and intense teaching will ultimately offer knowledge and expertise for my future career in areas such as: international shipping, port industries, or sea trade in marine-oriented associations, and business firms. Should my application be considered by your institution, I would like to resume my shipping studies and sharpen my horizons by studying marine subjects in a post graduate environment which would further contribute to my personal and professional growth.

Having worked in the industry for nearly four years, I am particularly aware that some of the challenges faced by the industry and the work-place include the need for multidisciplinary and broad based knowledge towards solving emerging problems and contemporary challenges (Blanch, 2007).

Since this program would contribute to furthering my understanding and skills in the areas of business related to the sea, the processes used in the effective management of the international shipping , the economics of shipping and the skills needed towards building innovative solutions. I am quite confident that taking the program would make me an asset to the work-place.

I am very much aware that in today’s operational environment which is constantly shifting and is ever more uncertain that before, one needs transferable skills and exceptional approach to problem solving in order to be valued in the workplace and the industry generally (Yap et al , 2003). Therefore, to be successful means that one must be able to combine experience with thinking and continuous development. This is my resolve and that is why combining my previous academic and professional experience with the program will prepare me for the challenges of modern workplace and the future.

It is important at this juncture to state that the maritime industry is faced with numerous challenges such as inadequate technology, rising costs of raw materials and lack of infrastructure and support facilities. However, the biggest challenge is the shortage of qualified personnel who will define solutions to growing problems, manage uncertainty and drive future growth. The industry is also at a critical point where an approach to multidisciplinary knowledge is needed towards excellence and competitiveness (Stopford, 2009).

It is feared that owing to the challenges faced by the industry, the maritime business will undergo an unprecedented challenge in the coming years (Pricewaterhousecoopers, 2010). While such challenges are due to various reasons, some of the prominent ones are a result of rising competition from emerging market companies like those from China, Brazil and India. From the early days of international trade, most ocean transports have been known to originate from Europe and America to many parts of the world, but today, there are significant changes in the trends and operations of the shipping industry, thus the structure is changing in favour of Asian countries and many other markets around the world. The implication of these changes for Europe will be significantly negative in the coming years as many jobs will be lost and some of the incomes accrued by firms in the industry will die (Kavourtzikis, 2010).

In a report by (FEM, 2005), the importance of the maritime industry extends way beyond maritime production and the transport and traffic sectors, including all branches involved in the waterborne transport of goods and people and all those directly or indirectly involved in maritime production and services, i.e. shipyards, suppliers, shipping companies, transhipment companies, import and export companies, freight forwarding companies, brokers, shipping banks and credit institutions, companies involved in mining maritime resources and energy carriers, government maritime offices and research facilities. The economic importance of the maritime cluster in Europe is clear from the fact that the sector’s 1.3 million employees together generate value added totaling €70 billion.

Given the industry’s importance to the sustenance of Europe and the healthy future of commerce generally, it is important to ensure that risks, competition, challenges and demands are fairly managed in order to protect the industry (Notteboom and Winkelmans (2001). In a paper prepared by (FEM 2005) towards the future of the industry, the body suggests that this would require complex system solutions as well as high valued personnel. For me being in this industry at this particular time I believe would be an asset to the workplace and the future of the industry, but since one cannot be an asset without the important technical, business and industry skills I am certain that the program would be central to sharpening my skills, expanding my horizons and my ability to contribute my best to the industry all of which are important facets of becoming an asset.

From experience, I am aware that some of the present challenges faced by the industry stem from good practice and approach combined with theory in managing complexities. However, operational effectiveness is another area where I have noticed significant weaknesses and flaws.

The operations department is responsible for the handling of post-fixture support to ships; they have to give out voyage instructions, ensure vessels perform as per the charter party agreement, and also make sure that shipped cargo is practiced safely and efficiently. They also have to supervise the disbursement of the finance required to maintain the upkeep and running of the vessels and has to co-ordinate freight/hire/demurrage collection from charterers. Lastly, the department must organize the provisions for the vessels with bunkers.

The activities that are co-ordinated by the operation department include: cargo handling, port activities, pilotage, towage, wharfage, dockage, canal transits, loading and discharging of vessels. These are the operational participation that makes the department closely tied with current market conditions. It is very significant that to maintain “a competitive edge (UNCTAC, 2005)”. This is where there are gaps in operational effectiveness. In this department I was responsible for the crewing of vessels in various different ethnicities, but mainly with Greek, Filipino and Ukrainian seamen. I was also responsible for identifying well-trained seamen who had valuable experience and social characteristics. This was accomplished through self-governing crewing agencies that deal with each person’s training, travel and wages. They have to make sure that the personnel are sufficiently trained and possess the necessary qualifications needed to meet the terms established by the “international requirements and regulations” as well as standard conventions of shipping. This makes sure the ship’s staffs were highly-trained, skilled and able to work effectively on the ship. Also, this staff acts out a lot of the commissioning roles as well as also managing activities within the shipyards or dry-docks.

In a more analytical way, my every day responsibilities were to pay massive attention because one mistake could have caused millions of dollars in damage. In my role, I was contacting the agents in the ports that every vessel was calling, informing with the exact vessels estimated time of arriving, (ETA) notifying also the conducted follow up to placed vessels orders to stores, provisions, technician, or ship chandlers who visit the vessel for any repair or any delivery of provisions, stores, spare parts etc.

I was also issuing freight invoices after the completion of a voyage in order to get paid for the corresponding freight related always to the charter party. Additionally I found the everyday contact that I had with the Master, offering him instructions, updates information regarding vogues’ and handling in matters that daily appears with the crew members or concerning the cargo related to Safety and Pollution Prevention, to be extremely important. I remember the many nights that my phone was ringing and it was the captain of one of our vessels who had serious problems, and before he took action he had to ensure a confirmation for the office people that worked for him. This shows great willingness and focus about your job. I was also updating circulars for flag and class and I was arranging the appropriate flag inspections whenever the vessel was.

One of my roles was in the Financial and Accounting Department. My responsibility was the handling and monitoring the payments of port expenses, DA’S and the monthly salary of the crew members. I had to oversee all financial and budgeting issues and to be responsible for invoicing, cost-control management, collection and payment of all due sums to ships and third parties; to keep statistics (if any) and ensure compliance of all Departments with the Company budget; to be responsible for all personnel issues within the Company’s Office staff.
Last but not least, I was controlling all income and outgoing expenses. With a more analytical point of view we can say that the department handles the Company’s accounting services and the revenue. The Department of Finance and Accounting are responsible for promoting the Company’s economic health; this is achieved by offering leadership within the development and execution of effective fiscal models. These supply the data on accounting as well as the vessel’s performance. This is attained through skilled and qualified staff members; these staff permits shareholders to observe vessels’ operations. This is achieved through an in-house party of operating systems and purchasing control which encompasses every part of the ships’ operations. These also account for the ships’ performance and revenue management. The department looks to adhere to the accounting standards as given by US GAAP. This offers top rate relationships with banks and financial institutions.

As a recap to my past, I mentioned earlier that I worked for three and a half year in a shipping company (simultaneously with my academic career) in operation and financial department as a full-time employee. After completing my bachelor degree in Shipping Management I had the idea to continue my studies and broaden my interest in the shipping cycle with a Master degree related to my professional career. I can admit that these years were very challenging for me and I really understand that Maritime Operations defined me personally. Working as a full-time employer make me to conclude to the fact that I know deeply my topic specialty, improved me as a hard worker, very organized and informed in both fields of occupation as well as the shipping industry in general, it also proves me as a very cooperative person with morality and discipline with the sense always of responsibility and consistency.

I gained maturity as a person and experience that cannot be replicated with books. I became more socialized due to the contact that I had with the shipping industry and many more benefits that lead me in a conclusion to follow my Master degree. This opportunity will broaden my horizons and I really believe that my future development will be in an excellent profession. Shipping sector is my main interest in life. It has been my dream for many years now, to work in Maritime sector and I feel very confident with myself at the stage that I am at now. After my completion of my Msc I have received a great offer to return to my company within the promotion to an Operation Manager. This is an enormous challenge for me and I will do my best to return as soon as possible.

Given the explanation of my professional experiences, contemporary challenges facing the shipping and maritime industry, my academic past and future outlook in this essay, I have been able to address the main questions and indeed specified why the post graduate program would be an important asset to my professional accomplishment. I have pointed out that the industry is faced with operational challenges as well as a range of external crisis which threatens its future. Some of the prominent problems as stated earlier include the shortage of qualified people who would help in managing growing complexities and future uncertainties. I would therefore conclude that combined with my personal and professional experiences in the industry, further deepening my skills through a more rigorous and intense program would surely contribute to expanding my horizons, honing my skills and developing better thinking and innovative approach to problem solving.

Branch, A, E. (2007). Elements of Shipping (8th ed.) Taylor and Francis (UK)
Notteboom, T., Rodrigue, J.-P. (2005). Port Regionalization: Towards a New Phase in Port Development, Maritime Policy and Management, 32 (3), 297-313.
Pricewaterhousecoopers, (2010). The shipping and maritime industry.
Stopford, M. (2009). Maritime Economics (3d ed.) Taylor and Francis (UK)
Yap, W.Y., Lam, J.S.L. and Notteboom, T. (2003). Developments in container port competition in East-Asia, Proceedings of IAME 2003 Conference, International Association of Maritime Economists, Busan (South Korea), 715-735
The Future of The Maritime Industry (2005). In Europe The Sea Is The Future (approved by the 100 the EMF Executive Committee Luxembourg, 7 and 8th
My own experience in the shipping company “North Maritime Management S.A”

1) Electronic References

Oral references
4) Kavourtzikis, K. (DPA/Manager of North Maritime Management S.A) meeting at Piraeus offices – Greece, 20/12/2010
5) Varhalams, D.(Senior Manager of North Maritime Management S.A) meeting at Piraeus offices – Greece, 21/12/2010

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