Nick Dowden, Master Mariner and Head of the Investigations Department at the Bahamas Maritime Authority, discusses his own professional journey and how important he considers it that his job aims to bring about good change in the sector. A worthwhile career investment for Nick was when he adopted active listening, which forced him to focus on the depth and quality of the information received rather than just attempting to find answers to questions.
ick also advise us to make the most of each learning opportunity , whether it be a training session or a brand-new assignment, by asking questions and challenging the “why”.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Nick Dowden: I knew I wanted to go to sea from a young age – growing up in the port of Southampton, I got a good nautical initiation through the Sea Cadets and joined the merchant navy straight from school. My cadetship with the Conway Merchant Navy Trust gave me a real breadth of ship type experience but it was the onboard investigation of a fire we suffered in a container ship that really shaped my mindset towards looking beyond surface factors to understand a problem as deeply as you can.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
N.D.: Working in casualty investigation means that you rarely get a call to give you good news. It is our job to try to make sense of a tragedy to tell a full, unbiased story of what happened and try to identify what can be done to stop the same thing happening again. Solving a problem gives a certain sense of satisfaction but working towards giving a family closure and striving to affect positive change in the industry is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
N.D.: “Write everything down” falls into both camps! Whether working at sea or ashore, following the rules of keeping a notebook are absolutely essential for ensuring you have a true record for future reference (especially if you need to attend court) but that notebook becomes a physical and mental barrier between you and someone you need to listen to – sometimes there are better ways to capture what you need whilst keeping the conversation going.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
N.D.: Learning how to actively listen completely changed the way I try and gather information from people that can help me understand what happened – instead of trying to find answers to my questions, being led by what someone is telling me not only improves the depth and quality of the information received but it makes the experience more fulfilling for the person I’m talking to.
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?
N.D.: Never pass over a learning opportunity – whether it’s a training course or simply being given a task you haven’t done before, try and get the most out of it – don’t be afraid to ask the “stupid” questions and the sometimes challenging “why?”. Do not accept “that’s the way we’ve always done it” as a suitable response.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
N.D.: The restrictions of COVID made us embrace new ways of working because there was no alternative. Applying the same thinking to potential solutions has really opened my mind to innovations in the work place – we have challenged how we gather, analyse and transmit information and identified ways to improve that we wouldn’t have considered before.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.