An interview with Kate Armstrong, Manager Regulatory and Compliance (Seaspan Marine)
Tell us about the career path that brought you to your current role.
I was going to be a marine biologist or a lawyer, but did not last long in university. My father had always been fascinated by ships and from a very young age took me down to the waterfront in St. John’s to look at the fishing vessels, so my first job ended up being a steward on a Coast Guard Search and Rescue vessel.
This was 40 years ago, and I was the only woman on the ship. They didn’t have accommodations for me and I slept on a mattress in a storage locker. Eventually I signed up for a nautical science program, completed my studies and worked on a number of ships, including being an oiler on an American seismic ship off the coast of Newfoundland.
I eventually decided to study naval architecture. Over the next decades, I worked for a number of naval architecture firms, for Transport Canada, for BC Ferries, ran my own consulting firm, and eventually found my way to Seaspan.
Can you describe your job?
I work with the crews to help them prepare for regulatory inspections. I’m also a conduit between shoreside and shipside personnel. Thanks to my sea experience, and the fact that I have worked in every department on a ship throughout my career, I can have a positive, meaningful conversation with the crew.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My immediate focus are upcoming inspections and certificate renewals. I visit our boats as much as I can and have conversations with the crew about why an inspection is being conducted and what the inspector is looking for. It is important for people to understand that the success or failure of an inspection doesn’t depend on the crew that is onboard the day of the inspection. It is dependent on everyone who has been on that vessel over the course of the year. An inspection is simply a snapshot, but it is the way the ship should look 365 days of the year.
Typically people think of audits and inspections as stressful events.
The whole purpose of inspections is to make sure vessels are safe for the crew and for the environment. A ship is such a different medium. When they slip the lines, crews are on their own. They are the mechanic, the doctor, the firefighter. Whatever the emergency is, crews need to be able to handle it, but more importantly, need to mitigate the risk in the first place.
What’s the best part about your job?
The people. I love being on the boats, and I love being with the crew, having conversations and helping them see the merit in what I do.
People on the shore have to understand that the guys on the boat are working on a moving, challenging platform. Crews have to understand that shoreline staff are working to maintain our business. We are a team and together, we form Seaspan.