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Maritime 24/7 Stories: Day in the life of an Operations Manager

With the maritime industry transporting more than 80 percent of the world’s goods, this industry is one that cannot afford to stop!

Day and night, maritime professionals like Vivian Yuan are hard at work, ensuring that shipping operations go on smoothly for our essential goods to arrive on time.

As a Maritime Studies graduate from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Vivian first started off as a BW Group Management Trainee before taking up on the role of an Operations Manager at Hafnia (member of BW Group).

Here’s a glimpse into her life, as she journals what a typical day at work is like and how she copes with the 24/7 nature of her job scope while adjusting to parenthood as a new mum.

Vivian Yuan has been in the maritime industry for nearly 5 years after graduating from NTU with a Degree in Maritime Studies

7.00am

“Uuwahh!” – the first thing that greets my husband, Stanley and myself every morning are the cries of our lovely baby girl, Anna. Like any other new parent, you don’t need an alarm with a new-born in the house – their hunger calls are more than enough! We usually take turns, playing with Anna and feeding her, while getting ready for work and taking our breakfast at the same time.

Vivian, Stanley, and the newest addition to their family, Anna

8.00am

Off we go! We drop Anna off at our parents’ place (thankful to have them!) before continuing our journey to the office, accompanied by songs from YES 933FM. Besides enjoying the music, I use this time to prep myself for the start of the work day by checking my email and catching up on updated vessel itineraries.

9.00am

Back to my second home at Mapletree Business City. It’s been nearly five years since I started working here and I never get tired of the sea view from our office. Our office space is very cosy as well, making the environment conducive for work.

As an Operations Manager, I don’t actually have a fixed daily routine; my job is largely shaped by each voyage I handle, and every voyage comes with its own set of challenges which honestly, makes it all the more exciting!

One of my main responsibilities is ensuring that our vessels deliver the fuels to be used in aircrafts, cars and ships timely. We also ship blendstock, or unfinished oil, that is used in the manufacturing of chemical products.

To do that, I liaise with various stakeholders such as Technical Managers, Pool Partners, Charterers and Brokers to ensure smooth cargo operations, making voyage-related decisions like sending load and discharge orders and arranging for the release of cargo. I manage around eight vessels, each of which can hold up to 350,000 barrels of clean petroleum products worth millions of dollars!

10.30am

After checking on the cargo, my next task is to make sure that the vessels have sufficient bunkers1 onboard for their next voyage, sourcing for the most convenient and cost-efficient ports for bunker stems2. I also update voyage itineraries and data in the voyage management system, also known as the Integrated Maritime Operations System (IMOS).

Most people have an impression that my job is similar to a courier service provider, which isn’t too far off of a guess. The only difference here is that it’s on a much larger scale and we don’t just deliver anything – we transport energy to sustain the world!

12.30pm

My colleagues and I take a break from work and head out for lunch. I enjoy having meals with them because this is a time when I get to learn more about their cultures. Our company hires people from all over the world, such that there are 17 different nationalities in the office currently.

Vivian (second on the right) with her colleagues at BW Group’s annual Year End Dinner

2.00pm

Back to the office after lunch and I attend a meeting with my colleagues in Singapore for a Voyage Review project which aims to create a platform where all Operators provide an assessment at the completion of voyage. During this meeting, we discuss how we could ensure voyage result accuracy, share learnings with various internal teams and brainstorm on ways to improve earnings and optimise voyages.

4.30pm

Time for a video conference to coordinate matters about the Voyage Review project with my colleagues from the global offices. This is crucial because we want to ensure accuracy in the TCE, or Time Charter Equivalent. The TCE is important because it is a shipping industry standard that measures the average daily revenue performance of a vessel. We discuss about things such as revenue and cost to determine the profit and loss for the voyage as well as identify areas of improvement.

I think it’s really exciting to work alongside my international colleagues because there’s this sense of dynamism involved!

5.30pm

I send emails to my colleagues from the Copenhagen and Houston offices, keeping them updated on the enquiries received. This coordination is necessary for us to be able to support each other while working through different time zones. Keeping everyone on the same page makes the process easier.

6.30pm

After work, Stanley usually picks me up and we head over to our parents’ place to fetch Anna and stay for dinner. We’re lucky to have the support of our parents; nothing beats seeing your loved ones and being served with a home-cooked meal at the end of a long day.

9.00pm

We’re home and Anna’s fast asleep. This means couple time for us. We power up the Nintendo Switch and play one of our favourite games, Ring Fit Adventure. It’s fun yet challenging. The real struggle though, is keeping our voices down while playing. Don’t want to wake the baby! Unfortunately, our game is cut short as I receive an urgent call from vessel about a cargo loading issue. One of the ships took on more cargo than intended – a stray cat!

Vivian and Stanley playing their favourite game, Ring Fit Adventure on their Nintendo Switch

10.30pm

The issue turns out to be a little more complicated than expected. As the ship has already been unberthed, it’s impossible for it to turn back. I’ve informed the stakeholders and am communicating with my colleagues to solve the problem.

11.30pm

Success! After much discussion, a joint decision has been made to engage a launch boat to send the stranded kitty back to shore. This might not seem like a big deal, but it really is – considering that it cost us close to a thousand dollars just to make this happen. Talk about a really expensive Grab ride for the cat!

The cat we saved!

In this line of work, it’s not unusual to have to tend to unexpected situations after regular work hours. Cases like this put our communication skills to test, leaving us with a sense of satisfaction when the issue is finally resolved.

Working at such an hour isn’t that bad either – after all, we always have the option to work from home. I’m really fortunate that our company is big on work-life balance and work flexibility which, to new parents, helps a lot. It doesn’t really matter where we work as long as we get the work done!

So you heard it from Vivian, a day in the life of an Operations Manager! As you can see, new challenges can crop up at any time of the day, so be rest assured that you’ll never find this job role mundane!

Don’t be mistaken though, having a career in the maritime industry doesn’t mean that you’ll always be working into the wee hours of the morning. Urgent matters that require immediate attention don’t occur every day. But when they do, you can always depend on the help of your overseas colleagues due to the global nature of the maritime industry.

Given the dynamic nature of work, many maritime companies have put in place flexible workplace arrangements for the welfare of their staff. This allows for employees to take a breather, avoiding burn-out and most importantly, have a healthy social life!

Find out more about the role of a Ships Operations Officer here.

1. Bunker refers to the storage of petroleum products in tanks used for refuelling ships.
2. Stem refers to the supply of fuels to the vessels at any one occasion

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