Maritime NZ people

We’d like to introduce some of the people who are doing great things at Maritime NZ, including those working behind the scenes. In support of the International Maritime Organization’s campaign to empower women in the maritime community, we’re focusing on the women of Maritime NZ throughout 2019.

Michelle Lough

Operations Advisor

Woman on wharf

Michelle Lough’s grandfather was a ship’s agent, and her dad went to sea aged 15 as ‘ship’s boy’, later following in his father’s footsteps. So it’s little wonder that, despite her “father’s protest”, Michelle found herself working in the industry.

Michelle has been putting her lifetime of industry experience to good use at Maritime NZ for nearly 10 years now, and currently belongs to our Policy Delivery Guidance and Support team.

We asked Michelle about her background in the maritime industry and discovered she was even married at sea! Michelle also shared her proudest moment at Maritime NZ, what her typical day entails, and what she likes most about working for the maritime sector.

Please tell us a bit about your background...
I grew up in Nelson surrounded by the maritime industry. My grandfather was a ship’s agent and my father went to sea aged 15 as ‘ship’s boy’ (yes, that was an actual position), and went on to become a shipping agent. So I guess it was inevitable, despite my father’s protest, I’d end up working in the industry.

I started my career, nearly 30 years ago, as Shipping Officer for the NZ Kiwifruit Marketing Board (now Zespri). I then moved to Auckland and took on the role of Vessel Co-ordinator for the Nedlloyd business unit at Seabridge. When Seabridge announced it was closing its doors, I decided to run away to sea. Well, to clarify – I joined my partner Richard*, a Master Mariner, for the next 10 years as he worked onboard a variety of world-wide trading vessels. I earned my keep by doing the paperwork for each port and reporting for victualing (food provision), bond and crew wages. We were married onboard a Renaissance cruise ship off Cadiz where Richard was Staff Captain and I worked wherever there was need – escorting shore excursions, purser, spa receptionist and even filling in for the nurse.

Eventually Richard’s employers offered him a position at their head office in Cyprus to implement the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code. I became Crewing Superintendent for another ship management company and was managing the crewing department before we returned to New Zealand. I then started a contract with Maritime NZ, working in the Seafarer Licensing team and, as they say, the rest is history.

*Richard Lough has also worked for Maritime NZ for the past 10 years. He’s a Senior Technical Advisor in our Maritime Systems Assurance team.

What’s your proudest moment at Maritime NZ?
I was part of the large team from across Maritime NZ that was responsible for implementing the new requirement for float-free EPIRBs on fishing vessels**. We knew that making EPIRBs compulsory had the potential to save lives and this gave the project a real sense of purpose. I’m really thankful that a float-free EPIRB was activated when a fishing vessel overturned off the coast of the Chatham Islands recently. The alert from the EPIRB was received by our Rescue Coordination Centre and helped save the lives of three fishermen.

What are the values that drive you?
My father – the shipping agent – instilled a really strong work ethic. You do what’s necessary to get the job done, you are loyal and you treat people fairly.

What does a typical day look like and what are you currently focusing on?
I’m an early starter – I try to do my serious reading first thing while it’s quiet. There’s a fair amount of research, reading and planning required in my role. I work closely with subject matter experts across Maritime NZ and within the industry, so meetings – whether formal or impromptu – are a daily occurrence.

My work programme currently includes drafting a position statement on stability requirements when towing, refining a checklist for auditing ‘recognised organisations’, and external consultation on a guideline for surveyors and operators.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
The variety of work and subject matter is both challenging and rewarding. I’m currently doing some work in the Design and Construction space. I really enjoy the research and getting into the detail. However, I find it quite challenging to get a good understanding of a technical subject I’m not familiar with.

What do you like best about working for the maritime industry?
It’s the people. I’ve had some great opportunities working both within New Zealand and overseas. The thing that’s always resonated with me is the passion people have in the industry. Most of us rely on the sea or waterways as a source of income, a place to play or a means to transport goods and services. I believe there’s a real connection for those working in the marine environment.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I like pottering in the garden, fishing (when conditions are right), cooking for family and friends, and watching a good game of rugby while curled up on the couch.

** Float-free EPIRB distress beacons that can activate automatically became compulsory on commercial fishing vessels from 1 January 2019. This applies to those vessels between 7.5- 24 metres operating outside enclosed waters.

Jo Sweetman-King

Operational and Strategic Planner

Woman on boat

One of the many talented women in our crew, Jo Sweetman-King has spent half her life working for Maritime NZ (she won’t admit how many years that is!) and was recently seconded to the role of Operational and Strategic Planner for the Maritime Systems Assurance team.

We asked Jo about her role at Maritime NZ, including what her proudest moment is, what her typical day entails, and what she likes most about working for the maritime industry.

What’s your proudest moment at Maritime NZ?
I’m really proud of the work I did to arrange the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding meeting Maritime NZ hosted in Queenstown in 2014. The meeting is held in a different signatory country each year and involves delegates from all signatory countries. I’m pleased to say that with two years of planning the meeting went off without a hitch and all the delegates enjoyed visiting New Zealand.

What is your biggest achievement to date (personal or professional)?
My biggest achievement is raising my two boys, who are now 12 years old and soon to be 15 years old. Some days they present their own challenges but they are my pride and joy.…

What are the values that drive you?
I’m a firm believer of the three Maritime NZ values – respect, commitment and integrity – both personally and professionally.

What does a typical day look like and what are you currently focusing on?
I’ve just started a secondment to a role in my team that didn’t previously exist. At the moment, there are no typical days. I am busy preparing the Business Plan for the coming financial year and planning the work for our group.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy working with my team and across the organisation. No two days are ever the same at Maritime NZ and I love the variety.

What do you find most challenging?
To be honest, one of my biggest challenges can be wrangling everyone’s calendars to get them all in the same place at the same time!

What do you like best about working for the maritime industry?
I find the industry quite fascinating. It’s such a vast industry – we can be working on an issue related to fishing vessels one day and a cruise ship the next.

Please tell us a bit about your background…
After leaving high school I completed an office administration course at Hutt Valley Polytech (now Weltec). I then put my skills to work in a variety of industries before joining what was then known as the Maritime Safety Authority.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I’ve recently retired from 20 years of playing indoor netball once a week, so I’m looking for something to fill the exercise void. Besides that, I like to cook and hang out with my family and friends.

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