Cordell Beaumont’s “Career Spotlight” series explores career paths within the shipping and energy industries, sharing insight from the professionals within our network.
This week we spoke with Rob Millatt of Scotline Ltd, a leading British operator of short-sea shipping in the Scandinavian / Baltic market for over 40 years.
Cordell Beaumont (CB): How did you get in to shipping?
Rob Millatt (RM)
My father was in the Merchant Navy before coming ashore and setting up a freight forwarding company which slowly developed into regular shipments and eventually became a liner service. I trained and worked as a mechanical engineer with companies like Honda and Caterpillar before joining his company as part of the succession planning. Despite working as a stevedore when I was younger, it still surprises me how large the industry is but also how it is almost invisible to the general public. Still the majority of people I know in the industry are here because of a relative in the industry, rather than any other route
CB: What has been the highlight of your working career to date?
Probably my highlight so far is a piece of new technology development that I’m working on at the moment. We are looking at the application of stored energy (batteries) on board ships and how they can be used to replace diesel generators. It looks like the future of shipping will involve an alternative fuel for main engine propulsion, but there are still large opportunities for using batteries to replace smaller diesel generators, particularly as shore power installations become more common. If we’re successful then hopefully it’ll show other owners that it’s feasible.
CB: How has Covid-19 impacted your day to day business activity?
I think everyone’s business activities have been massively affected by Covid-19. I’d like to think we’ve found some positives from the crisis, such as people’s ability to work from home, that almost everyone is working above and beyond to get their job done without the usual structures, plus the fact that some people have really stepped up to ensure that our ships and terminals keep working. Safety is obviously our top concern and is affecting everything, but we are responsible for paying people’s wages and supplying goods to the UK so believe we need to keep operating to get through the virus and economic crisis.
CB: Which skill have you had to work hardest to develop that didn’t come naturally to you?
When I first joined Scotline I was warned not to get involved too much with HR and perhaps I should have listened. There’s a lot of ups and downs dealing with people and I certainly wasn’t a natural at it. It can be very rewarding being able to support people in life and careers, but it has recently also been very challenging, since ports and ships have to stay working but people are naturally anxious about the virus, so it’s like walking a tightrope to keep everyone safe and happy.
CB: What’s the one key tip you’d share with people looking to build a career in Ship Management?
The main thing I find generally in ship management and in all jobs is to remain humble. It’s easy to think that you know best in a situation, but the people on the ground and out at sea are doing their job every day so don’t need the keyboard expert patronising or micromanaging them. It’s also the best way to learn from others by accepting their advice, even if you later decide not to act on it.