A Boarding Officer's Story
He started out as an office boy after completing his GCE “O” levels in 1978 and was subsequently offered the role of a Boarding Officer when his managers saw his potential. That was the turning point for Khamis bin Saad, and he has never regretted his career choice. Today, he is the Manager of Agency & Operations at Oxalis Shipping.
What has the past 42 years been like for Khamis? This is his story.
1) Why did you choose to join the Maritime industry?
I remember clearly it was December 1978. Having completed my GCE “O” levels at 18 years old, I needed a job for survival. When my late father convinced his boss to take me into the shipping agency he was working at, I was elated!
Frankly, without any working experience and knowledge, I had no qualms to start out as an office boy as I wasn’t choosy. I think it is important to work my way up and till today, I have no regrets doing so.
2) What was the first day of work like?
Wow, it was exciting to be able to work with my father and his colleagues! As a beginner, I had to ask questions and find my way around but I was never shy in learning. I recall I had a hard time familiarising myself with the shipping terms during the first few days but it was necessary since administration and paper work were very important. If there was any delay, the ship would be delayed.
3) What happened next?
After three years as an office boy, my managers noticed my passion for the industry and encouraged me to take up the Boarding Officer role. Since I was only 21 years old, this was a great breakthrough and I quickly seized the opportunity as I knew that it would be something that I enjoy doing. That became a turning point in my career.
After my previous company closed down, I was still determined to be a boarding officer. Fortunately, I chanced upon an opportunity with my present company, Oxalis Shipping Co Pte Ltd. After 36 years at Oxalis Shipping, I was promoted from a boarding officer to Manager of Agency & Operations and still enjoying my work every day.
4) What do you like about your career journey so far?
The best part of my job is getting to meet and converse with seafarers of different nationalities. We share greetings in different languages and I even crack jokes with the familiar faces. This never fails to bring a wide smile to my face each time!
My motto in life is “Always to give your best in whatever you do”. Every job comes with its own set of challenges. Sometimes, ship officers would present me administrative challenges for immigration clearance such as expired documents, lost documents or wrong documents etc but I don’t blame them because I know they have their own difficulties.
At the end of the day, it is my job as a boarding officer to assist them with their documentation and administrative needs. My biggest satisfaction is when I finally get these documents properly cleared with the relevant parties so that their vessel can arrive and depart on time. These are the happiest moments that keeps me going.
5) Were there times when you wanted to give up?
Give up? No, never at all! Yes, there were tough times indeed. But I have set my mind to do well in shipping and I am here to stay. I have been in this industry for 42 years and I am still enjoying every moment of it.
You have to make the best of your job. Love your job and you will never quit.
6) What changes do you see in the role of the boarding officer now compared to before?
In the past, times were tough because of poor communication infrastructure. There was also no structured training programmes for shipping agents and boarding officers.
Today, many administrative and documentation challenges can be solved with just a click of the mouse. Computerisation has transformed my job scope and I am pleased to be offered opportunities to learn, adapt and apply.
Just like what they say, learning is a lifelong journey.
7) What are some of the challenges faced today that were different in the past?
Well, today we have strict ship inspections, security checks, and impending international regulations for compliance etc. While these are time consuming for us on the administration end, I believe that they are implemented for safety and security reasons.
The second challenge will be getting more Singaporeans to do shipping agency work or to work on board ships as maritime officers. There’s a great reliance on foreigners and only a small group of Singaporeans are interested in the maritime industry.
If you ask me if I would recommend the young people to join the industry, it’s a definite YES! I feel that the young people do not have sufficient information on how attractive a career in maritime can be. We need to continue to promote maritime careers as aggressively as we can, do more to bring in talent to the industry and reward them handsomely for their hard work.
8) Last question… what dreams do you have for the maritime industry?
Firstly, while the International Maritime Organisation has steered shipping towards cleaner seas, I would like to see more of such efforts so that we can collectively help to keep the oceans cleaner.
Secondly, local companies must help Singapore to uphold our title as the best International Maritime Centre (IMC). I would like to see more Singaporeans take the helm in providing efficient and outstanding services to clients. We should leverage on the latest technology and build on our natural advantages as a deep-water harbor and enterprising entrepot city.
Singapore must be the best IMC in the world!
Find out more about the role of a boarding officer here.