Captivating Conversations with the Captain: Part I, by JR Captain Terry Skinner

How long have you been a Captain?
A long story that I will make short. I have been Captain on the JOIDES Resolution for 5 years. However before joining the JOIDES Resolution some 19 years ago I have sailed as Captain on larger offshore fishing boats. I have worked as a Ship’s Officer since 1980 (34 years)

Why being the Captain such an important role to you? 

As Captain of a vessel your first priority is “Safety Of Life At Sea” (SOLAS) of all the international conventions dealing with maritime safety, the most important is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. Better known as SOLAS, which covers a wide range of measures designed to improve the safety of shipping. The first version of SOLAS was adopted in 1914 following the sinking of the Titanic with a loss of 1,500 lives.
The Caption’s Responsibility and Authority, which is clearly defined in the International Safety Management (ISM) code with regard to implementing the mandatory safety and environmental protection policy of the company. The company must establish in the safety management system that the Caption has overriding authority and the responsibility to make decisions with respect to safety and pollution prevention and to request the company’s assistance as may be necessary. This last statement is why being a Captain is such an important role to me and answers the question above.

What does it take to lead a group of people on a ship? 

There are three ways to lead a group of people and have them do as you command. In my opinion only one is the right way.
1: By force and being feared – I feel this is the wrong way
2: Because of your position people have to obey your orders whether they believe and trust you or not. – I feel this is also the wrong way.
3: Have people trust and respect you. Trust and respect must be earned. Respect your people, empower your people, recognize their accomplishments, notice their efforts.

What are the expected traits?

The main trait, which I have been advised to adopt during my training and examinations is to be firm, but to be fair.

Honesty is very important in order for personnel on-board to trust and believe what you say. Integrity, which goes hand in hand with honesty, is also a very important trait. To learn how to make good use of the knowledge, ability, talent, and capabilities of those you surround yourself with and to let them know their value and how much you appreciate them is important. Let them take credit for their achievements and hard work. They will feel empowered, appreciated and have good self-esteem. The respect and appreciation they hold for you will keep them loyal and always willing to help you and give you all they can.

Below  Caption Terry shared images from his family photo album. 
Capt. Terry Skinner Photos