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Third officer Scarlett Barnett-Smith on qualifying as an OOW, and changing stereotypes

18 June 2024

Third officer Scarlett Barnett-Smith works on passenger ferries. She started her career as a marine apprentice with the Port of London Authority. In 2021 she was awarded the John Percival Award for Best Industry Trainee from the Workboat Association before becoming a cadet. Scarlett has since become an Officer of the Watch unlimited and scooped the Nautilus Bevis Minter Award recognising cadet achievements. Nautilus catches up with her fast-moving maritime career

What is your current role?

I am now a third officer onboard Dover Seaways working for DFDS. I started there in April 2024.

Before that I completed my deck cadetship at Warsash Maritime School where I was sponsored by the Port of London Authority and Trinity House and during that training, I spent a memorable sea phase onboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

How did you begin your career at sea?
My first experience working onboard was on the Trinity House vessel Galatea. It was very daunting walking up to the ship and seeing the gangway. It was kind of 'Oh my gosh, it's actually happening'.

But when I got onboard and I had my first meal in the mess with the crew, I definitely felt at ease and more comfortable. Then you get working and there's so much to do. So you don't really have time to think about it, which really helped me get through that first week onboard.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?
When you're at sea and you're on the bridge, and you're assisting the officer of the watch navigating you're watching those sunrises and sunsets, you're seeing dolphins, you're seeing whales, the wildlife, the birds, it's just unbelievable.

Is there something you wish you knew before going to sea?
That I didn't need to pack my entire belongings when joining a ship. I think when you first join a ship and you have no idea what you need to bring, you kind of go overboard with the packing, and I really did pack so many snacks and clothes. Most of the time, you're wearing PPE or uniform, or you're in bed wearing your pyjamas sleeping.

And when you're onboard, surprisingly, they actually provide you with food and snacks. So I brought about a month's worth of food that I did not need because I was panicking and I just packed and packed and packed!

Can you share a challenge that you faced during your cadetship?
I feel like the Covid-19 pandemic affected a lot of cadets in the industry. For me personally, Phase One was affected most dramatically. The majority of it was spent online learning, which definitely was challenging at times.

But I adapted, I passed my exams and I got to sea. I've been very lucky because I was able to get quite a lot of sea time compared to other cadets.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

When I won the Bevis Minter Maritime UK Award 2024, that was probably one of the best evenings of my life. I won this award for going through challenging times throughout my cadetship and persevering. I did not give up and continued to put my exams and sea time first. Now everything is all worth it
I also can not put into words the feeling when you take the control for the first time as a qualified officer, and when you get the first stamp in your discharge book as a qualified officer. These feelings mean so much because I had to work so hard to get there, as do so many other cadets.
The Merchant Navy is such a special place and I am so lucky to be a part of it. 

What are your plans for the future?

Since achieving my Officer of the Watch unlimited certificate, my goal is to continue to promote this magical industry, ignoring the negative* comments I receive for my social media posts about life at sea.

[*Scarlett has also promoted the industry on socials to attract more women to a career at sea – triggering some pathetic trolling along the way.]



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