Zachary Loh

Second Officer (Singapore)

“SPO is certainly one that cares for its employees and invests in its people and these are the reasons why people stay with the company. Getting the various qualifications and becoming a Master isn’t the end. There are many things to do and diverse career opportunities in this industry after getting command as a Master.”

Florent.jpgDescribe your maritime journey with SPO.

My maritime journey with SPO started in 2013 when I was undergoing full-time National Service (NS) in Singapore. After a few unsuccessful applications, I decided to contact SPO’s manning department, SPSM’s General Manager then directly to try my luck and thankfully, he agreed to interview me at the SPO Head office and I was offered a job.

I joined my first vessel immediately upon completion of NS and have been working with SPO since. I've continued to stay in the company because of the friends I have made here. I love the work-life balance working on board offshore vessels offer as the contract allows 60 days on/off which gives me more time with my family.

Coming from another company prior to joining SPO, I can say that SPO is certainly one that cares for its employees and invests in its people and these are the reasons why people stay with the company for years. In 2017, when I requested for study leave to obtain my Chief Mate’s qualifications, it was approved without much hassle. Not many companies in the industry would be willing to invest in the advancement of their sea staff and I’m very grateful and fortunate to work in a company that does. I look forward to many more years with the company, to work my way up the ranks and hopefully get my command as a Master in time to come.

How has working with SPO helped to develop yourself as an individual and professionally? 

SPO has a very diverse workforce and seafarers hail from all around the world. I’ve been heavily influenced by my fellow co-workers and people I’ve met in the company. Most of the officers that I’ve worked with come from the U.K. and South Africa and their worldview and mindset are very different from mine, having been in Singapore all my life. Through them, I’ve learnt to be much bolder and more confident especially when it comes to putting my ideas across. I’ve just moved from Singapore to Australia recently, something that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the guts to do if not for having seen and heard some of my colleagues uprooting themselves to move to foreign countries. I’ve been fortunate to work with highly experienced seafarers on board SPO’s vessels who are willing to guide me and show me the ropes. I hope I can pay this forward one day to the juniors who join the company. 

What advice would you give someone interested in a career at sea? 

3.jpgA career at sea involves delayed gratification and patience. Many of my seniors and peers who graduated from the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) ended up cutting their seafaring careers short and did not go all the way to achieve the Master’s Certificate of Competency (CoC). Getting the various qualifications and becoming a Master isn’t the end. There are many things to do in this industry diverse career opportunities in this industry after getting command as a Master. 

My advice: Don’t go out to sea if you don’t intend to stay and play the long game. I’ve had many moments on board when I wondered if I was suited for this line of work as a seafarer but that feeling passes and it just becomes another day at work. Other than that, a career as a seafarer is definitely rewarding. This career has taken me to many countries around the world, given me enough time to do what I like and paid me well enough to pursue my passions.

What is your most memorable work experience in SPO?

In 2015, I was assigned to the team doing the salvage work in St Helena on board the Pacific Dolphin. The island was pretty much in the middle of nowhere but it is not often you’ll get to stand in front of the house where Napoleon Bonaparte, the first emperor of France spent his last days, much less in the course of your work, so it was a fascinating experience. We took about three weeks to mobilise in Cape Town, South Africa which incidentally was my first time to the country, so I was pretty excited before the trip. Cape Town is an amazing place with so much to see and do and is definitely a place that I would visit again in a heartbeat.

The camaraderie of all the people involved in the St Helena project made it a memorable work experience. The work we did - to remove oil cargo from a sunken WW2 RFA oil tanker to prevent further environmental damage made it extra special and meaningful. In this fast-paced commercial world, it was nice to know that the work we do contributed to the greater good of protecting the ocean. Incidentally, the Foo Fighters which is my favourite band was playing in the U.K around the time that my work ended. Carl, the other Second Mate and I found ourselves in Milton Keynes after that trip in that concert so the work trip certainly ended on a high note.