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Kristina Rivette

Local Girl Kristina Rivette is on the move
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Kristina Rivette

Cadet takes a voyage of a lifetime 

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Cadet takes a voyage of a lifetime

Kristina Rivette, a cadet in BCIT's Nautical Sciences program, recently started work on the Queen Mary 2 as part of her training.
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Cruising through cadet training

Program gives students a chance to travel while they learn lucrative skills
Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun; Canwest News Service
Published: 2:36 am

More than a few people would pay a king's ransom for the same trip that Kristina Rivette began last month.

On Feb. 15, the 22-year-old Rivette arrived in New York City to board the Cunard Line's luxury ocean liner RMS Queen Mary 2 en route to several ports in the sunny Caribbean. From there, it's on to England and possibly the Mediterranean before returning to New York and starting all over again.

But instead of paying thousands of dollars for the 16-week voyage, Rivette will be paid a regular wage as part of a cadet training program offered by Vancouver's B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT).

"It's absolutely amazing that this opportunity happened," Rivette said in an interview. "They hired me through Princess Cruise Lines and this is where they placed me. I'm a deck cadet (on the Queen Mary 2). I'm training to be an officer."

Rivette -- the only Canadian on board the vessel as part of the program -- is serving the first of three co-op sea phases required of all students in the BCIT Marine Campus's four-year nautical sciences diploma program.

"Our company supports in-house cadet training and has worked with the BCIT Marine Campus for many years to recruit and train deck, engineer and electro-technical cadets and officers," Don Millar, senior fleet manager for Carnival Group, whose cruise brands include names such as Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, and Princess Cruises, said in a statement.

According to a release, companies such as Carnival, based out of Southampton, England, were recently invited to the BCIT Marine Campus to interview first-year nautical sciences students.

Rivette, who wants to become a cruise ship captain, was offered the position in January and will do many different jobs on the Queen Mary 2, which is over 300 metres in length and carries 3,000 passengers and a crew of 1,253.

"I'll do a little bit of everything," she said. "I'm not sure what to expect. There will be training on the bridge (and) we can use all the ship's facilities. I'll be doing chart work and taking fixes with sextants. And I'll do a lot of chipping and painting on deck."

Rivette said she'll be paid a cadet's wage and all food and accommodation are provided free of charge.

Jeff Otto, co-ordinator of cadet programs in the nautical sciences program, said there is a huge industry-wide need for their graduates and that the program's focus is on big-ship, deep-sea experience. "The Great Lakes are a big category. Thirty-five per cent of our intake goes there on bulk carriers, self unloaders and oil tankers. Another 35 per cent are on the cruise ship side."

Otto said their nautical science program takes 18 students a year and their marine engineering program another 16.

Graduates have no trouble finding work and the pay can be quite lucrative, Otto said.

"Once they get their Transport Canada certification, the pay is about $10,000 a month (as a mate). On the Great Lakes, they would probably only work six months of the year, but there's also overtime.

On international deep-sea ships, they would work eight months of the year. Captains make well over six figures on the Great Lakes (and) first mates make about $91,000 a year. And they're flown from all over the country, including B.C.

"Once they get their higher-level ticket, they're licensed to print money. And it's a matter of where they want to work, not if."

Otto said several of Rivette's classmates are scheduled to head overseas on their own co-ops, including two heading to a cruise ship in Australia, one to a ship off Dubai and two others scheduled to join a ship on the west coast of Africa.

He said the Chinese-owned China Shipping Container Lines is a big employer, but that it doesn't present a problem for his graduates because the international language at sea is English.

"BC Ferries is not a big employer, because it's not deep sea," he added.

Otto said graduates of the nautical science program are thoroughly trained to be "solely in charge of a navigational watch on the bridge of any ship of any size anywhere in the world." Engineering graduates, he added, are trained to be responsible for the "engineering watch of the propulsion equipment and auxiliary systems on any ship."

He said their cadets, who are predominantly from B.C., are mostly between 18 and 26 years of age and that 10 to 15 per cent are female.

Those interested in such a career, he added, "have to be OK to be away from home and family for three to six months (a year) and have a desire to travel and work internationally."

According to the release, nautical sciences graduates are awarded a Diploma of Technical Studies. Also, upon completion of all prerequisites, they receive a Watchkeeping Mate Unrestricted Certificate of Competency in the third year, and the First Mate Intermediate Certificate upon final completion of the program.

Graduates of marine engineering will receive the fourth-class motor certificate of competency, and the third-class motor certificate upon final completion of the program.

Capt. John Clarkson, associate dean of the BCIT Marine Campus, said in a statement: "We are very proud of our relationship with the cruise ship industry, especially Princess/Cunard and the subsequent international recognition of our excellent nautical sciences and marine engineering students."

The BCIT Marine Campus offers many courses and programs in navigation, marine engineering, seamanship, maritime and maritime security.

The campus, in co-operation with the Justice Institute of B.C., also offers training in marine firefighting at the Fire and Safety Training Centre in Maple Ridge.




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