Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, or Father Christmas is a legendary figure of Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas eve or early morning hours of Christmas Day. Whether you subscribe to that belief or not is not the object of my trajectory. But if I were Santa, I would have commandeered a plane this morning and flown Alex Maneno’s family, together with his beloved girlfriend all the way to Hong Kong, China, right into the seas where he currently sails. After all, what a better way to wind up the year other than with your loved ones? But I am no Santa, and Alex has to man it up and keep sailing, thousands of kilometers away from home. And behold, a relentless winter currently bites in China.
Alex Maneno is a graduate of Marine Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The discipline, largely untapped in Kenya and in Africa as a whole is a potential goldmine, but one which requires a lot of input and effort. As such, not so much resources are available in the country or continent to fully equip potential Marine Engineers. Therefore when JKUAT decided to offer this course, the management knew full well that it would take more than the intensive five years of Engineering training to make an accomplished Marine Engineer. As per the global maritime regulations, a potential Marine Engineer must undergo 12-month on-board training at sea after concluding their University studies before they acquire their license or Certificate of competency as a Marine Engineer. The University’s Department of Marine Engineering therefore ensures graduates undergo this training through various partnerships they endeavor to make with various relevant organizations throughout the world. Alex is among six graduates for whom the Department secured on-board training slots in Brazilian and South-Korean waters. He is among four who landed, or better still docked in South Korea, specifically the Korea Maritime and Ocean University (KMOU). He has been sailing and learning since April this year.
Alex has just docked at the Port of Hong Kong when he gets in touch with me. The Port, located by the South China Sea, is one of the busiest ports in the world. He is getting back to me two months after I reached out to him. He mentions that we can’t do email correspondence because China being China, you can’t use google apps over there. (I hope my statement won’t cause any diplomatic stalemates between our friendly nations). With the chilling weather he endures at Sea, few hours of sleep and intensive and practical nature of the training, Alex tells me he often loses track of time, even falling short of not being able to know what day it is. But despair not for Alex dear reader, it’s all a worthy cause, one he enjoys and consider his God-given purpose. I ask him whether he misses home, especially at this time. It’s the first time he is winding the year at Sea. His response is on the affirmative. ‘I miss my family and friends. More so my beloved girlfriend who I know can’t wait to see me back home…’ Which is why if I had the means, I would have built a Titanic for Alex and his beloved Yvonne so that they can sail happily ever after. But with his determination, he might just build one someday. So keep calm Yvonne, your Marine Engineer and Sailor-in-Chief will soon dock in Makueni County. As long as there will be enough water, hehe.
Since I couldn’t help it, I engaged Alex further on his experience at Sea. And this is what he had to say.
How has the training been so far?
I’m currently working onboard a container ship MV Sinokor Hong Kong managed by STX marine CO., Ltd as an Apprentice Engineer. It calls 3 ports in South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam and China, a voyage of two weeks. I first boarded T/S Hanbada for 7 months as a marine cadet where I was equipped with the general operation and maintenance skills for the ship’s Main Engine and Auxiliary machinery. As a cadet, I took part in the general engine room works like machinery overhauls, E/R log book filling, safety drills, etc. During this period, I also acquired E/R Management skills for bunker management, E/R store Management, Noon position report and Arrival/departure report writing, crew rest/work hour management, etc.
In the current ship, I work under the supervision of the Chief Eng. and 3rd Eng. I usually take part in the operation and maintenance of all 3rd Eng. Machineries like the Aux and Exhaust Boiler, Fresh water Generator, A/C systems, sewage system, electric system and electric motors, fire detectors, welding and fabrication machineries. I also assist in other E/R works like the E/R log book filling, bunker operations, welding and fabrication works, on board safety drills, etc.
How would you credit JKUAT for your professional experience so far?
I’m so grateful to have already acquired some technical and hardship skills from JKUAT. Many people have the assumption that working on board the ship is a bed of roses. It isn’t for real, it requires one to work so hard day in day out, sometimes having a sleep of less than 3 hours in 24 hours especially during machinery break down or if the ship has a tight schedule calling ports in intervals of less than 3 days. Sometimes you don’t even realize the days of the week. But these skills have made me always remain competent, strong and resistant to sea sickness especially when the sea gets rough during strong winds and typhoons.
Do you think studying at JKUAT made you uniquely equipped for your current undertaking?
Yes. The basic engineering and hardship skills I acquired are really making me more competent in my career on board the ship as an engineer. I also got the best social skills which always make my life on board the ship smooth when interacting and dealing with people from different nations and social backgrounds.
What are your most treasured memories of JKUAT while you were a student?
Sincerely, I treasure each and every moment I had back in JKUAT. No one to be specific because I reminisce all the moments I had with my friends.
What keeps you going and what has been your life philosophy so far?
I got a statement which I usually say several times a day which keeps me going every day, ‘I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me and someone’s opinion about me doesn’t become reality.’
Life philosophy, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Logic or knowledge will take you from point A to B but Imagination will take you Everywhere.’ I also strongly believe in this; ‘If you see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand. If you have the confidence to speak it, it will happen.’
What are your career plans going forward?
The plans I got in store is to serve at sea up to the rank of Chief Engineer on board the ship. After I retire from sea, I’ll begin a maritime related business at shore.
If you were to go back in time and become an undergraduate student at JKUAT again, what would you do differently?
Begin an initiative of creating awareness about this maritime sector in the country because many people have little knowledge about the maritime industry.
What’s your word of advice to the current and prospective JKUAT students of Marine Engineering?
They should be willing to get into actions if they want something. As mentioned earlier, Marine Engineering is not a bed of roses, they should work smart towards their goals in their career. They shouldn’t wait for the ideal time because it never comes. Do what they can, where they are, with what they have and never be satisfied. If they want unreasonable results in life, they should be willing to be unreasonable.
Marine Engineering is a fairly new discipline in the region. From your experience what would you cite as the opportunities and challenges in the field?
There is a bright future because there are so many offshore job opportunities unexplored due the inadequate supply of the marine man power. Actually there is a world deficit of marine engineers which has led to a higher demand for marine engineers in the maritime sector. I think this is a very nice opportunity for the people taking maritime related courses.
The only challenge Africa got at large is the inadequate training facilities since maritime courses entails a lot of training and short courses e.g. training ships, STCW training institutes, etc.
How do you intend to use your expertise to foster impact in the society?
I really got a dream of moving the maritime sector of Kenya to another level where it can compete with the rest of the world like South Korea, Singapore, Philippines, etc. It’ll be my pleasure seeing Kenya become the ‘face of maritime industry in Africa’
What do you consider to be your life’s purpose and how do you live up to it daily?
I got a strong belief that the only purpose I got in life is achieving the dreams, ideas and goals I set everyday which is my joy. I want to exhaust my dreams, ideas, talents and abilities that’s why I live full, to die empty. I usually work on myself on regular basis for mental mind-set and stamina by going through motivational materials.
Any final sentiments?
I’m so grateful to God for having got this chance because it has boosted my experience on board the ship working as an engineer. I can now competently, sufficiently and confidently serve as a Marine Engineer on board any ship. Thank you JKUAT, thank you my family, my friends, and of course to you my beloved Mrs. Sailor. And Merry Christmas to you all from Hong Kong, or as the Chinese say, Shèngdàn jié kuàilè! And a prosperous 2017!
And now to all our ardent readers of the Discover JKUAT Blog, I wish you a Meeeerry Christmas on behalf of our esteemed Social Media & Customer Relations Department. Let’s soldier on to 2017 and keep living up to our God-given purpose.