When asked about what needs to change in the current maritime landscape, Capt. Bull suggests starting to look at the bigger picture and stop carrying out mindless audits. Also, Capt. Bull refers to the excellent contribution of women in the industry, noting that throughout his career, he has witnessed young women bringing a new touch to onboard operations and are gaining respect amongst their shipboard peers.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Capt. Mark Bull: I wanted to go to sea from the age of 10 following the bicentenary of Cook’s voyages held in my home town. I was enthralled by his voyages of discovery and wanted to become a navigator and I did just that. Later I wanted to command a big white ship and I achieved that goal as well. Now I want to exit the industry leaving a sense of pride in navigation amongst those officers and companies I meet.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
Capt. M.B.: I have come full circle and back on the bridges of ships but most importantly I feel I am rebuilding enthusiasm in the subject through my Navigation Assessors’ courses on behalf of the nautical Institute. I am very impressed by the young women who are at sea now; they are bringing a new touch to onboard operations and are gaining respect amongst their shipboard peers. I also like the new technology being adopted that is going to change the face of navigation as we know it.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind and why?
Capt. M.B.: Mr Heinrich Schoeller, chairman of Columbia Shipmanagement, he set up a great company dealing with the management of ships; a keen eye for what type of ship would be in demand in four to five years time.
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why ?
Capt. M.B.: The late Commodore John F Wacher of P & O who was in command of the first passenger ship I sailed in as an officer. A great ship handler, excellent Master who commanded respect from all the ship’s company. Always complementary to his bridge officers after every arrival and departure but would not accept lax standards.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you've ever been given and why?
Capt. M.B.: Best: If you always tell the truth or record things exactly as they happened, you can never go wrong. That is something I have always done however unpalatable it has been for some.
Worst: Don’t go to university it’s a waste of time – unfortunately I did follow that advice and it has been my life long regret.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
Capt. M.B.: When I studied for and sat the examinations as a lead auditor for ISO/ISM. It opened up a completely new field for me and for quite a number of years I was a firm believer in the ISM Code.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
Capt. M.B.: Go to university and keep adding qualifications to your portfolio. One day they will take you in the direction you really want to go and you will enjoy it.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
Capt. M.B.: The gradual rising interest in safety of navigation. It is really quite obvious when one considers the greatest sea going disasters and tragedies.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
Capt. M.B.: We have got our priorities on safety mixed up – we cannot see the wood for the trees. We carry out mindless audits on inconsequential issues and still the obvious triggers for accidents go unchecked. Ships with just 2 watchkeeping officers are one and the absence of a single flag state being interested in navigational safety is another.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
Capt. M.B.: Bone et Fidelis.
About Capt. Mark Bull
I commenced my career in 1970 as a cadet with P&O S.N. Co. I spent the next 27 years at sea. I came ashore qualified as an ISM and ISO lead auditor and joined a large ship management company ending up as the QM/DPA. I then moved to London where I became the Loss Prevention Manager of an IG P&I Club. Since 2012, I have been an independent consultant and have now started my own company.