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Changing course

Master mariner charts new course to shore job via online education

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2018 convocation ceremonies.


By Moira Baird

Adam Parsons’ education, leadership skills and seafaring experience have taken him from sea to land.

The native of Port aux Basques, N.L., graduates this month from the Marine Institute (MI) with a bachelor of maritime studies degree, a program he completed online while working full time on an offshore drill rig and later as port marine manager for the Halifax Port Authority.

Master mariner

In June 2009 Mr. Parsons received a diploma of technology in nautical science, a four-year MI program that prepared him to become a ship’s officer in the international maritime and offshore industries. He also completed a dynamic positioning course at the Centre for Marine Simulation.

He landed a position weeks later with a tanker, transporting crude oil from Brazil to Los Angeles via the Magellan Strait.

“It was a good start,” said Mr. Parsons, who also holds a master mariner unlimited certificate.

“I went on a tanker as third mate and have been working ever since.”

Spring graduate Adam Parsons at work at the Halifax Port Authority.
Photo: Submitted

He worked on a variety of vessels, including on an ice-strengthened bulk carrier shipping ore from Voisey’s Bay, shuttle tankers transporting Grand Banks crude to refineries, and seismic survey vessels and dive-support vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.

Making shore plans

In 2013 he joined the West Aquarius, a semi-submersible rig that drilled wells at the Hibernia oilfield and in the Flemish Pass.

Part way through his four-and-a-half-year stint on the rig, he started making plans to land a “shore job” to spend more time with his young family. He enjoyed the work and the crew, but not the uncertainty of getting on or off the rig with each three-week rotation.

“It was getting harder and harder to go away with the kids at the age that they were.” — Adam Parsons

“On a rig, you always knew what day you were supposed to be getting off, but it was always a 50-50 chance that day. If you woke up and it was foggy, you unpacked your bag and stayed another day,” he said.

“It was getting harder and harder to go away with the kids at the age that they were and not getting to do some of the things that I wanted to do at home.”

Back to school

The plan to land a shore job included going back to school, so he opted for a bachelor’s degree that could be completed part time and online. MI’s maritime studies program is aimed at individuals working on ships or onshore in marine-related sectors.

“I figured I’d get a good feel for how the bachelor degree worked and move into the master’s,” said Mr. Parsons.

Eighteen months before completing the program, Mr. Parsons landed a job with the Port of Halifax — one of the busiest ports in the country.

He oversees all marine activity, including vessel berthing, dangerous goods shipped in and out of the port, accommodating large vessels and liaising with the pilotage authority and tug boats to ensure smooth, efficient operations.

Life changing

Mr. Parsons says it’s a “total change of life” and that he’s enjoying the challenge. And while the shore job has worked out, he says his education plans won’t end there.

“I’ve got three young kids – a one-year-old, a three-year old and a five-year-old – and an extremely supportive wife,” he said. “My wife’s going back to work, so I’ll take a semester or two off and then I’ll apply for the master’s and go slowly with it.”


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