From Cadet to First Officer on the MV Fly Challenger

Chief Officer Mark Saukeng on the helm of MV Fly Challenger, steering the vessel into Port under the guidance of Captain Allan Indi. Picture _OTDF

The OTML Maritime Cadetship program is seeing positive outcomes for Western Province cadets in just its sixth year.  To date the program has supported twelve cadets, amongst which there is a stand out success story of a local young man from Olsobip in the remote mountains of Western Province. He is thirty-two year old Mark Saukeng, a young ambitious sailor making ripples in the maritime world.

The steadfast seafarer started as a Deck Cadet following completion of his studies at the PNG Maritime College and quickly made his way up the ranks, eventually being promoted to Second Officer in less than 24 months.

Mark began his maritime journey aboard the CMCA community owned MV Fly Explorer, being promoted to Second Officer aboard the MV Fly Warrior (65 m container vessel also owned by the CMCA communities), then contracted by P&O and again promoted to Chief Officer and second in charge aboard the MV Fly Challenger (copper concentrate vessel contracted to OTML).

When the Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF) Media team caught up with Mark in Kiunga, this humble, high achiever expressed gratitude on behalf of himself and his family to OTML & OTDF management for their continuous support.

“It is very challenging to get this far. It needs personal commitment, time and effort, and I would like to set the pace for others behind me to excel in the shipping industry and other professions as well. You have made my people and province proud”, said the Western Province highlander who grew up thinking that a seafaring occupation was only a coastal person’s job. He very much enjoys working with P&O and hopes to return to College to complete his Mate 1 Certificate and fulfill his dream to Captain an ocean liner and travel the world.

Mentor and Captain of the Fly Challenger, Allan Indi, from the Solomon Islands spoke highly about his Chief Officer saying Mark showed great commitment.

“I will train him to be the next captain on Fly Challenger when I retire in 2 years’ time. This young man has a very bright future in the maritime industry and I wish him well.”

According to OTDF Community Education Service (CES) scholarship officer, Shemila Kasi, all three cadets that have graduated from the Maritime Cadetship Program to date are working on the Fly River for P&O.

“So far two deck cadets and one engineer with Class 3 Mate certifications have graduated from the program while three more are due to obtain their certificate of competency this year to enable them to board one of the CMCA or P&O vessels for their two year sea-time training,” she said

Students under the program are governed by OTDF policies which include the promotion of women, and OTDF is proud to announce that a first female cadet joined the program in 2019.  Ms Kasai was very excited when registering Ms Susan Sampson and has expressed her desire for more women to join: “In future I would like to see more females showing interest in the program” she said.

The Maritime Cadetship Program is administered by OTDF with over PGK150,000.00 in financial support each year from OTML.  OTDF further acknowledges the support of P&O for taking on these cadets for their sea-time training.

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