Theme: New technologies for greener shipping
World Maritime Day is celebrated on the last Thursday of September every year, to honour those who contribute to the maritime industry.
To recognise World Maritime Day in 2022, we interviewed Reginald Caine, Head of Technical Services – Ministry of Fisheries, and Australia Awards alumnus. Reginald graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Maritime Technology Management) from the University of Tasmania in 2013. He has spent the last 10 years contributing to Fiji’s maritime sector and the following highlights his motivation and contribution to this key sector for Fiji and the Pacific region.
1. Where are you currently employed and what is your current role?
I am the head of a department called Technical Services at the Fijian Government’s Ministry of Fisheries. My role is to manage technical, and engineering-related issues across the Ministry – from ice plant operations to small vessel procurement, repairs, and maintenance for all 24 stations around Fiji. I oversee six staff in headquarters and seven staff across Fiji. I am also the advisor to the deputy secretary and the permanent secretary.
2. Why is the maritime sector so important to Fiji and the region?
The shipping industry is significant to world trade, which is why the Pacific, in particular, Suva as the hub of shipping is very important. Shipping is capital-intensive, and the risk is high (both financially and environmentally). Shipping impacts many cross-cutting areas. For example, resources such as fuel consumption and fishing are significant considerations. If you control these areas well, you contribute toward mitigating climate change issues.
I specialise in maritime logistics, so I advise on the need to buy the right type of vessels, and use the right system and tools to maximise on shipping effectiveness and reduce costs.
3. What does World Maritime Day mean to you?
World Maritime Day is about recognising and reflecting on everything offshore. It is holistic. It starts from the coastline – living, mining, dumping, dredging, shipping, fishing (food and livelihood) – right through to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and the international waters and beyond.
Today, one of our biggest issues is climate change. Ice caps are melting, and the transportation industry is a contributing factor, although maritime transportation is one of the lowest polluters.
At the same time, we have to think of our fishermen, the coastal communities and stakeholders who need sustainable solutions. That is where my training and expertise have helped me to focus on ensuring sustainability within the maritime sector.
4. Can you please tell us about the course you studied – Bachelor of Applied Science (Maritime Technology Management)?
It’s a very specialist course. I majored in management and did eight units in engineering, which could be related to maritime or normal engineering. The management part of my course was mostly focusing on maritime economics. So, we learned about consolidation, economic growth scale, and meeting supply and demand. The course I did was very helpful to understand how to manage operations efficiently, especially in a demanding industry such as maritime and fisheries.
5. What knowledge or skills did you gain in Australia that apply to your current work?
What I learned on my scholarship is a direct link to this year’s World Maritime Day theme. At the moment, I’m managing engineering issues, which is part of what I advocate at a technical level. Management is also 60 to 70% logistics focused. I completed a unit on Project Management which taught me the basics of how to plan and manage big projects by dissecting the work and implementing it in smaller parts. This helped me meet my long-term goals and focus on sustainability. The economics side of my study helped me to identify and critique issues specific to Fiji, as well as relevant in the Pacific region and globally. Overall, the course taught me to manage effectively whilst maintaining an important focus on climate change.
6. Since returning to Fiji, what innovations (developments or changes) have you brought to your workplace or the sector?
I want my staff to grow and learn international skills and standards. Sometimes I put pressure on my team, like my lecturers in Australia did to me, to ensure they produce quality work. My method is inclusive management, ensuring everybody is on board, and that every idea is important. I then help put it together. I also share what I have learned with them through my work experience and studies. I do my best to motivate them and then have them take the lead.
Technology efficiency – innovation example
Beyond the office, the technology we use needs to be assessed. For example, to keep fishing stock and other food, we support communities with ice machines. The maintenance of these machines is high because they’re over 50 years old. In response, I developed a phase out plan to reduce the ice loss burden and ensure energy-efficiency. Ice loss means wastage, so I introduced a KPI of 10% of ice loss. We started with 15%, and have since dropped to 10%. Now some stations are sitting as low as 6% with one machine even on 0.05%. When we reduce ice, we reduce the machinery operation hours and prolong the machine’s life. Ultimately, we reduce carbon emissions!
7. What do you hope to achieve, in your sector, over the next 5 years?
I hope in the next five years, all the old machines, boats and technology are phased out and we are meeting our development goals such as reducing carbon emissions by 1.5% monthly. To do this, I have designed a plan to phase out all (non-environment friendly) ice machines. I’m planning we hit the target by the end of this year!
Also, being strategic and quality assurance-focused in the way we do things. For example, I have successfully implemented a centralised operations system. Moving to an online system is simple and effective, allowing everyone to be involved. Inclusive leadership and change-focused management are the way to go.
8. What was different about your study experience in Australia?
The courses were intense and very hands-on, so I had to work hard and learn about management. Back then, there was some online work, so I had to learn that as well as research skills – this is a must if you are attached to the Australian Maritime Quality Research Institution, as the standard is very high. Being in that scenario was a struggle but I was motivated to bring back every bit of knowledge to Fiji and implement it.
My lecturers were all Captains on international vessels, with academic qualifications such as doctorates. They taught me how to think outside the box, which is a standard that I work towards till now. They were so proud of the way they spoke about the industry and motivated us the same way.
9. Is there anything else you’d like to say about your scholarship? For example, how it helped you professionally and/or how it is benefiting the people of Fiji through your work?
This degree has allowed me to contribute to Fiji, by applying the skills I learned together with sharing the industry knowledge I learned along the way.
While I did not enter the main shipping industry after completing my scholarship, I have taken my goals and aspirations, and implemented them in a somewhat different direction. I’ve taken what’s relevant from my trade and recognising the importance, I’ve refocused on climate change and how we apply logistics, operationalised systems and processes so they are more efficient, sustainable and help everyone.
My engineering background gives me the technical oversight to know what’s required, but at the same time, I have the chance to help people in the sector grow and contribute. We help by listening to people and their ideas, but the most difficult thing in a manager’s role is changing attitudes. Sometimes they don’t see themselves as leaders, we must help them recognise this. I want to leave with a legacy that I not only contributed to new initiatives, but also helped to upskill leaders.
Our work at the Ministry is contributing to high environmental standards through the efficient use of technology. And while we don’t work directly with the communities all the time, we support them with our ice machines, and we ensure they’re at 100% at each of the 24 stations. So, our service delivery is all about the communities and the Fijian people.