Sunday 12 July 2015
Maritime Society welcome new President
We recently had the chance to catch up with Akeen Matthews, the newly elected president of Southampton Solent University’s Maritime Society.
The Maritime Society helps to organise socials, guest speaker events and volunteering opportunities for maritime students, as well as liaising with teaching teams and giving maritime students a unified voice.
Here, we ask Akeen what he has planned for the society in the coming months, what he loves about studying for a career at sea, and why he thinks the maritime industry is one of the world’s best kept secrets.
You’ve been at the University for two years now – how did you become president of the Maritime Society?
I became Maritime president by way of a democratic voting process which this year involved myself and one other candidate. Firstly, there was a campaign initiative by all members who chose to run for the various positions in the society, then the voting process was carried out.
How would you like to see the society develop during your time as president?
The society is still in its infant stages, but I believe that it’s important to maintain the traditions started by previous members, while also adding a fresh outlook on things.
I would also like to see the society be more involved with the maritime faculty staff – I don’t want the board to operate in singularity, and having the staff involved means better relationships and a better flow of ideas, making time at Southampton Solent more pleasant and productive for everyone.
Could you tell me more about the speakers who have visited the society? Are there more speakers currently planned for the future?
Yes, this is a basic standard we aim to offer our members. We do have speakers we are constantly in contact with, many of whom are Solent alumni. However, the dynamic nature of the maritime industry means that schedules tend to change and, as such, we aren’t able to name any of our speakers until closer to their scheduled dates.
Could you tell us more about some of the Maritime Society’s events and socials?
We are aiming to have a minimum of four socials during the academic year, inclusive of the maritime dinner and the end of year boat party.
The maritime dinner is held midway through the first semester, giving staff and students the chance to share a meal and socialise in an environment that’s a little bit ‘lighter’ than the classroom. We aim to schedule this event in line with graduation week so that the graduating class can attend if they wish.
The end of year boat party is our last event for the academic year. Members enjoy a relaxing cruise through the Solent with a drink in hand.
How do the society’s graduates get involved with current students?
Yes, the society’s graduates are in contact with current students. Some of our alumni return to give presentations to the current crop of students whereby they explain what they are doing and how they achieved what they did, this serves as a motivational factor for us as students. Our alumni are also mentors to some of our level 6 members whereby, they give advice or share some experience and knowledge where necessary.
Personally, what do you love about studying for a career at sea?
There is a phenomenon that people in the maritime industry call “sea blindness” – many people are totally unaware of where their goods come from and have no idea that the sea still plays such a vital role in global business. This tends to make the industry very niche and specialised, which means the people you encounter are usually passionate and motivated.
You get to travel the world, network with people you never thought you would share commonalities with, and earn a good living – what’s not to love?!
What opportunities are the societies members currently pursuing? Any internships, work placements or research projects?
Our society contains members from all across the world. Our diversity is definitely something we pride ourselves on.
Our members are currently completing internships in countries such as China, South Africa, Norway, Greece, Germany and here in the UK ranging from port operational jobs to shipbroking firms and customer service coordination activities.
You mentioned that you want to get the society involved with the local seafarers mission. Could you tell us more?
The Southampton Seafarers Mission is an establishment I have only visited on a couple occasions, but it is something that I am aiming to get the society more and more involved with as I believe volunteering with charities will help to build the character and charisma of the society.
As we are in the business of shipping, I believe there is no better place for us to start than the local seafarers mission. Volunteering is something that the society hasn’t attempted before – hopefully it will become a new tradition.
Why do you think so many people don’t know about the employment opportunities that are available in the maritime industry?
Based on my experiences, it is caused by a lack of readily available information.
Routes to entry in the maritime industry are unlike many other professions. For example, a business degree will enable you to work in a bank or accounting firm or any other financial house – whereas to work in the maritime sector you will need a relevant maritime/shipping degree, which, as it is a very specialised field, you pursue with only a small handful of outcomes in mind.
Thanks for talking to us Akeen! To find out more about studying for a career at sea, please visit solent.ac.uk or warsashacademy.co.uk.